Think About Death
21 years ago today, I came home from school to breaking news on TV. 12 students and 1 teacher had been murdered inside Columbine High School. At the time, it was the deadliest school shooting in US history.
As a 2nd grader, I don’t remember much. But there is one thing etched into my brain.
I remember crawling into my mom’s lap and crying. I had no connection to anyone involved, and I had no idea where Columbine was even located on a map.
But I was afraid. I had never seen or heard of anything so traumatic. That kind of evil didn’t even exist in my world at that point.
“Will someone come into my school and shoot me, too? If it happened there, could it happen here? What if I die?”
For the first time in my life, I remember thinking about my own death.
It was scary. It was unsettling. But I also think it was important.
I probably didn’t need all the gory details I heard through the news that day as a little kid, but the Bible teaches us that considering the end of our lives actually leads to wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
I would venture to say that “numbering our days” is not a popular hobby for most of us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have “Think about dying” as an item on my daily task list.
In fact, they say that most people fear dying. So why would we intentionally choose to think about it? How could that give us wisdom?
I think there are many reasons you should think about dying. Let me give you just a few.
Thinking about death resets your priorities. You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon after a near-death experience. It’s what they call “your life flashing before your eyes.” Realizing that your life could end at any moment causes you to think through what is actually important and what isn’t.
No one faces death and thinks, “Man, I wish I would have spent more time playing games on my phone.” For many people, they think about the importance of family and relationships. But for Jesus-followers, there are spiritual priorities that get realigned. The thought of death exposes areas of your life that are not lived unto God. The importance of Christ and your devotion to Him becomes clear when you believe death could be imminent.
Thinking about death prepares you for eternity. The Bible is clear that everyone will die, then stand immediately before God in judgment (Hebrews 9:27). At judgment, God will send each person to one of two places, eternal life in heaven or eternal death in hell. That means that every person will live forever in eternity, just in one of two very different locations.
I believe one of the reasons people fear death and the thought of dying is because of this reality of judgment. Whether we claim to be religious or not, I believe we all know in our hearts that we will give an account of our lives before our Creator. And I believe we also know that our account’s balance will be short of the debt we owe to God. As sinners, we deserve God’s judgment and should expect nothing less on that day (Romans 6:23).
But praise God we have one who has taken our judgment in our place, Jesus Christ. He has paid our sin debt with his own life and death and has credited righteousness to our account. So for those who trust in Him, there is no condemnation or judgment to fear (Romans 8:1). Only life eternal.
Still, even Jesus-followers need to be prepared for eternity. What we do here on earth impacts what happens in heaven. We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), and we should be seeking to store up treasures in eternity, not here (Matthew 6:19-20). Our time here on earth is like a grain of sand compared to the endless beaches of eternity. Why would we continue to focus so much of our time and energy on this life when there is a greater, more important, eternal life that soon awaits us?
Lastly, thinking about death humbles us. One of the hidden blessings of tragic moments like Columbine and the COVID-19 Pandemic is that we are reminded of our human frailty. Think about it. Despite the incredible advancements we have made in the medical field, despite all the comfort and security that technology brings, an invisible virus can enter a healthy body and unknowingly ravage it to the point of death.
As John Piper has said, safety is a myth. We are not guaranteed a single breath. We could hide in our beds all day long and still die from cancer or heart failure.
The uncomfortable truth is this: everyone is dying, some just more quickly than others. Our bodies are slowly decaying because of the fallen world we live in. The older we get, the more we feel it in our very bones.
Death should humble us. It should remind us that we are not invincible and we are not the center of the universe. God is, and we revolve around Him. He holds our very breath in his hands. This truth should cause us to run to him in total dependence. As a result, our faith will be strengthened as we realize our only hope in life and death is Jesus.
So as we daily watch death tolls climb, as we see images on the news of body bags being loaded into trucks, as we hear of worldwide destruction, we should not grimace and turn away. We should not shrink in fear. We should not try to force happy thoughts.
We should pause and number our days. We should consider the brevity of life. And we should use this opportunity to evaluate our readiness to die.
Because whether we want to think about it or not, death is real. And each of us will face it. Don’t waste this God-given moment to consider death and find wisdom for life.