I’m still afraid to die.

death-570x570I remember lying in bed as a teenager in complete silence and darkness not being able to fall asleep. My thoughts quickly changed from friends, to school, to sports and all the everyday events of a typical teenager’s life. I can still remember the feeling like it was only yesterday. The first time I realized that someday, I would die.  Lying there in the darkness a feeling of terror came over me. The terror was followed by panic and tears running down my face. I remember having these episodes a number of times. They usually passed as I calmed down and feel asleep. During these moments, I don’t remember once ever thinking about God. I was thinking only of myself and how scared I was. My thoughts were focused on the great and wonderful things of this world, which I would be without. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my life and the things I loved. I would have nothing, I’d be dead.

These “terror over dying” experiences started shortly after my confirmation. You would think years of attending church and going through confirmation classes would have put my mind at ease. The problem was I had not been properly catechized in the faith. I was not shown the sin that resides within me and not pointed to the true man and true God in Jesus Christ who took my sin and my death to the cross. The reasons couldn’t be placed solely on any one factor. I skated through confirmation classes at my ELCA church like I did my high school classes. I did just enough to get by and pass. I didn’t really learn anything. Sadly, I do not remember ever being truly tested by my pastor on the things I was supposed to be learning. Somehow I was confirmed and afterwards my church attendance consisted of Christmas and Easter services. I left the church and Jesus Christ behind to follow my own heart and desires.

Fast forward about 10-15 years. Only through the grace of God and the work of his word and sacraments I found my way back into the church.  I’ve been properly taught the faith and attend church every Sunday I can. I hear the Word of God, confess my sins and receive the absolution. I eat and drink the true body and blood of Christ to strengthen my faith and receive forgiveness of sins. That fear I had as a teenager has lessened, but to be honest I am still afraid to die. What gives? Why hasn’t this fear of dead subsided? What hasn’t changed and will never change is my sin. My faith is not in Jesus Christ, but in my own flesh and blood. My fear of death now has turned from missing the things of this world to not being there for my wife and children. Not being able to watch them grow up and not being able to protect them. I continue to try to put my life and salvation in my own hands instead of depending completely on the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I wrote in a previous article about making the mistake of putting our sin on a scale. Our sin is always a 10, and at times it even goes to an 11. Like the level of our sin, the level of our fear of death is not important. Sin is sin, and fear is fear. Being ready to die or unafraid of death has nothing to do with faith in Jesus Christ. Does God look at our strength in death as the merit of our salvation? I can’t imagine even the most faithful Christian not being scared to die. In my opinion, saying you are not scared to die is tantamount to works righteousness. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, not our own strength.

So let’s be honest here, I’m still scared to die. My fear is covered in my own sin. It is not covered in the blood of Christ, as it should be. So what is a Christian to do? All we can do in this life is to use the means in which God has given us to comfort our sinful hearts. These means of grace were given to us by God and are available in his church. Holy Baptism gives us the assurance of salvation, when our fear is great. We look to our baptism as proof of God’s love and guarantee. Our baptism connects us with Jesus’s death and resurrection. Like most people, I don’t remember my baptism. So for me, Holy Communion is the most intimate and powerful way God comes to us, to strengthen our faith and crush our fear. The forgiveness of sins and Christ’s true body and true blood are in the present, right here and right now. As Christians we can never doubt how great our God truly is because of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has taken our fear of death and turned it into strength in his life, death and resurrection. We fear nothing, not because of our strength but because of Jesus Christ’s strength. Fear and death had no hold over Jesus Christ, so it will have no hold over you. He faced it and won. So when your worry and fear sets in, confess the name of Jesus Christ. Death has lost its sting. The resurrection and life eternal are yours in Jesus Christ.

About Nathan Redman

Nathan Redman was baptized into Christ at Bethel Lutheran Church (ELCA) Wahpeton, North Dakota on June 17th 1979. He and his wife, Bernice and their two children, Elsie and Porter are members of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Nathan works for a family owned Pepsi distributor in St. Cloud. In his spare time he enjoys watching Doctor Who, listening to Frank Sinatra and drinking single malt Scotch. Nathan considers it a privilege to write for Steadfast Lutherans.

Comments

I’m still afraid to die. — 13 Comments

  1. While a fear of death doesn’t necessarily indicate a weak faith, I don’t think it’s fair to say that someone who does not fear death is guilty of works righteousness. I know people, who by every indication were very strong Christians, who still couldn’t shake a fear of death and those who, when facing their death, were completely at peace without the slightest indication of fear. Yes, God’s forgiveness covers fear of death, and every other time we do not trust him fully, but an absence of any particular sin/temptation in someone’s life is NOT works righteousness. We all have different weaknesses.

  2. Revs. Paul McCain and Todd Wilkens on Issues,Etc. were discussing the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration either the article on Free Will or Election a couple of months ago. They talked about what ‘the old theologians called ‘the monstrosity of uncertainty’ – this very human fear of death. They cited examples of very faithful Christians on their death beds having doubts, etc. Satan will try to deceive us right up to the very last moment of our lives.

    We are baptized! We got death over with. The following is the last stanza of LSB 594 – God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say –

    There is nothing worth comparing
    To this lifelong comfort sure!
    Open-eyed my grave is staring:
    Even there I’ll sleep secure.
    Though my flesh awaits its raising,
    Still my soul continues praising;
    I am baptized into Christ;
    I’m a child of paradise!

  3. A very good, honest post. We could all stand more honesty like this. Thank you. You don’t come to Jesus without fears. You bring your fears to Jesus. You don’t necessarily lose your fears. Sometimes your fears stay with you and keep you rooted at the cross & empty tomb.

  4. @Diane #2
    I am baptized into Christ;
    I’m a child of paradise!

    If you really looked into it, you might find that the fear is less about death than about “getting from here to there”.

    I don’t know anyone who would voluntarily commit themselves to a “nursing home”. A friend whose sons put her in one [convenient to one of them, six states (and a culture) from her home] called it “being warehoused”. The sons can afford to give her everything she might need there and do…except their time and that of the grandchildren, who are all busy ‘doing their own thing’. With the best medical attention, she has lived to 94 (and last time I talked to her she didn’t remember me). But she is “well cared for”.

  5. During the Vietnam war, I was a Sgt in the Marine Corps and faced death on many occasions during 1967-68. My first week in Vietnam found me at an isolated outpost in a place called Phu Loc District, where the Viet Cong launched a ground attack preceded by mortars. With bullets flying overhead and explosions around me, I remember saying a prayer, “Lord, I don’t want to die in this place, but if it is your will, I only ask that it be quick.” I am not a hero. I was an average motivated Marine there to do a job. I had no death wish. Me and the Marines with me survived that night, and many more later on. Some did not survive that year. Strangely enough, God gave me a peace of mind and I felt He was with me then, as He has in my early life and now, as I am several months away from 70 years old. I do not fear death. Naturally, like everyone else, I am not crazy about being in pain or dying in pain, but I do not despair about death. When I die someday, I will rise up and be with Jesus, and this fills me with hope and joy. Christians can be fearful of death, but we must remember The Lord will be with us when we depart from this earth.

  6. One of my favorite quotes from Rev. Cwirla, while with other pastors, doing extreme sport activity, “Let’s live like we trust our baptism.”

  7. I’m not afraid to die. I’m looking forward to it. The other side of the grave has got to be better than this vale of misery. I not especially fond of the idea of physical pain and suffering, but death means I’m home with God. That’s the goal and the object.

  8. The title of this article is “I’m still afraid to die.” But perhaps we should expand that just a bit. Is “death” what we are afraid of. or is it the process of dying that drives us to despair?
    I believe that it is easier for a Christian who believes in the resurrection, that the eternity that we have been promised is a glorious place to be.
    But perhaps it is the process of getting there that is our real fear. Will we be able to endure a long slow painful journey, even if we know that the destination is heaven itself?
    I am not afraid of death. I recognized that when I underwent open heart surgery a few years ago. But at the same time, I pray that I may remain faithful to my Lord, and that I might be granted a peaceful death as He takes me from this sorrowful world to be with Him in heaven.

  9. I really would prefer for my loved ones not to have to sit and cry through my funeral.

    Come, Lord Jesus.

  10. In peace and joy I now depart
    At God’s disposing;
    For full of comfort is my heart,
    Soft reposing.
    So the Lord hath promised me,
    And death is but a slumber.

    ’Tis Christ that wrought this work for me,
    My faithful Savior,
    Whom Thou hast made mine eyes to see
    By Thy favor.
    Now I know He is my Life,
    My Help in need and dying.
    -Luther

  11. It’s gonna happen . . . this being my BD is a reminder.

    Could happen a gazillion sort of ways – I don’t get to choose.

    Remaining in Christ my Lord, I am . . .

    “Home” Safe.

  12. It seems to me as this fear comes from the Old Adam within us–you know, the Old Man of our original sin. He is, of course, afraid to die as to him death is the end of all things. Despite the fact that we live in our baptism and faith given to us, he believes death is the end. Unless he is daily drowned in the waters of our baptism, he will seek to take control of us and drive us away from our faith in Jesus.

    So long as we listen to the Old Adam, that fear will remain.

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