“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, NIV 1984).
He called me after a conference on the West Coast where I had shared the time I was 33 years old, headed for the mission field, and experienced nights with a cold-sweating-fear-of-death. He asked for advice. He too is a follower of Christ who now fears death.
When my first tooth came in, I was not yet ready to chomp down on a good ribeye. When Christ transformed my life and came to live with me, I was not yet fully formed in His image. That takes a lifetime. And each of us sheds our old self for His new self at different paces and in different orders of transformation. Some of us lose greed early and others hold onto it until late in life. It is the same with issues like fear of death.
Most of us agree intellectually with the Bible when we accept Christ, but we don’t necessarily believe all it says with our heart as soon as we are born again. Oswald Chambers put it this way: “We begin our religious lives by believing our beliefs; we accept what we are taught without questioning; but when we come up against things, we begin to be critical, and we find out that the beliefs, however right, are not right for us because we have not bought them by suffering. What we take for granted is never ours until we have bought it by pain.”
Losing our fear of death may take time and may require pain before it is “right for us.”
I lost my own fear of death, not when “I figured it out.” I lost my own fear of death when I passed through such a destructive experience that God alone could save me—and He did. I lost my fear of death, not because I reasoned that I could believe the Bible, but because I came, through a horrific experience, to trust the One who waits for me both here and on the other side of death. As Alison Kraus put it, “I know not what tomorrow holds but I know who holds tomorrow.”
My confidence regarding life after death has grown and now rests on many principals:
- The absurdity of life if there is no heaven.
- The many published and shared near-death experiences, where heaven was more real than this life.
- My loved ones who wait for me in Glory.
- The clarity of the Bible, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).
- But mostly because I trust the One who made the promises in the Bible.
I love the truth first penned by St. Francis Xavier and put to music by Jane Marshall in the hymn “My Eternal King:”
Why, then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heav’n,
Or of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!
E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.
I believe in heaven with my head and with my heart. I truly expect to be there. But my own fear of death resolved, not because I began to believe more in heaven, but because I grew to trust the One who waits for me after this life, even if there was no heaven.
I trust you, even with the ending of my life.