My fellow Christian, if you are on your death-bed or in a life-threatening situation and you are reading these words, I am truly sorry about what you are going through. I know I personally cannot share in your pain, but I can empathise. I have had diseases, broken bones, and other wounds both physical and emotional. I have had fears of dying that overwhelmed me; and I can remember times when I had a real desire to die so that I could escape from what I was going through. So, I know a little of what you are suffering. And I am sorry for you.
For my other Christian readers, maybe you have passed through terrible experiences of your own. Or if not, then for the next short while, please try to imagine that you have been taken over by a deadly disease. A virus, a bacterial infection, a parasite, a toxin, a cancer, or something else. Imagine that you are now in what will turn out to be the last week of your life on earth. You are going to die, very soon. And in these your last days, all that you possess and all whom you know in this world will be taken from you. And if you are not a true Christian, that will be the least of your troubles, as you well know.
Even if you have your closest family and friends, who love you, all around you, you are about to go through this alone—if you do not belong to Christ. It will be only you, your pain, your fear, and whatever is taking your life. But if the Lord is your Shepherd, then you can be sure he is there with you as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and so you shall fear no evil (Psalms 23; compare John 10.11,27-30).
In recent years we have been worried, and some of us have been living in terror, because of the COVID virus. Meanwhile, very many people are still suffering from other terrifying diseases such as cancer. Maybe whatever is taking you down has already attacked multiple organs, and has turned your body parts into factories that are producing multiple versions of itself, all at your expense. Or maybe a degenerative disease is wasting you away, even before you have physically died.
We all hope we don’t suffer a terrible death. We like to hear of those whom we respect and love “going quietly in their sleep”—and this is what we desire for ourselves. But the truth remains that death, in whichever way it falls upon us, remains the “king of terrors” (Job 18.14)—unless we can assuredly say for ourselves with the apostle Paul: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1.21).
I know that, the larger your circle of friends and family, the more likely you will be present at a death-bed that is far from peaceful, far from easy. Maybe you have already been there. Again, I am truly sorry for you and yours.
Maybe your loved one has just received the diagnosis of the beginning of it today. Maybe the prognosis does not give them much time left in this world. Deaths like this are happening all the time, I know, and you know too. And death of some kind will almost certainly happen to you, sooner or later. You may have already thought to yourself, “That will be me, one day.”
It is not only viruses, cancers, genetic disorders, and other diseases that destroy people’s lives. There are serious accidents that take lives; there are natural disasters such as fires, floods, and famines; there are crimes of murder; and there are wars, war crimes, and more wars.
Though you may be spending these your last days (for, as we all know, all our days are our last days in this world) imagining or hoping, “This will never happen to me”—it almost certainly will. Only a few will have the privilege of never passing through physical death (1 Thessalonians 4.12-18).
Our last days may or may not be increasingly filled with suffering. In our pain, we may need to be under a heavy dose of sedative or analgesic. Or, we may be fully aware of all that is going on, until our end in this world. And for many people, their soul’s communication through their brain may have been mostly severed years before the death of their bodies.
Experiences like these are not remote from any of us. I have personally witnessed and known deaths of all these kinds, among my own family, friends, and colleagues.
Death, in whichever way it comes to us, is not only in our own future—we are all already dying today, now. Our last enemy has already engaged us in a battle that we cannot win, no matter how healthy or wealthy we are. These are our last days. Your last day may be today.
Do you have peace with God? If you are a Christian, you do.
Being on the receiving end of any kind of violence, bullying, crime, torture, murder, war, persecution, or any kind of “-icide,” is to be the victim of human evil. It is wrong to call this evil, “man’s inhumanity to man,” because it comes from human sin. The fallen human heart is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17.9). The carnal, or fleshly, mind is “enmity against God” (Romans 8.7)—at war against God! No less than God is the ultimate target of all man’s evil, even though this hostility is all too often poured out by men, women and children on earth against each other. What was true before the Flood is still true today: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6.11). Yes, it still is.
The world today—whichever day you read this—has numerous ongoing wars. We have rolling news of these wars, and there are several forgotten wars that have dropped out of our news. Even if it is relatively peaceful where we live, we may know people from other parts of the world who are living through atrocities committed against them personally, against their families, against their communities, against their nation, against their churches. And today you are hearing, watching and reading of people whom you don’t know, who are living in underground shelters; they are suffering, and grieving, and dying at the present moment—because of man’s wicked humanity multiplied by lethal technology. These victims of war could have been you and me.
Only we have peace with God, fellow Christians. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5.1-2). Our personal experience of this peace is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us (Galatians 5.22-23).
We should know that no matter what happens to us in this life, and no matter what the cause of our death, and no matter what pain, disease, wasting away of body or mind we personally have to suffer—none of these things, or anything else that may happen to us, can break open the saving hand of God upon our souls. Nothing can remove us from God’s grace, mercy, peace, and love. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8.38-39).
Christian, you know you are loved by God. And knowing this love of God gives you some understanding of this peace that God has with you and you have with God, in Jesus Christ our Lord. And as we make all this world’s troubles a matter for prayer, we come to appreciate the unfathomable immensity of this peace that we have with God, provided by God for us in our Saviour. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4.6-7).
You can, and increasingly you do, commit all the concerns, worries and fears of your life to God, knowing that he loves you, and knowing that he will answer your prayers: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5.7).
This is your peace, because you are in Christ: “Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1 Peter 5.14).