Oh death, where is your sting?” the speaker read from 1 Corinthians 15:55.
It’s right here, I thought, tears brimming in my eyes and a hollow feeling of nausea in my belly. It’s right here!
We were all deeply stung by death. In front of me was the picture of a beloved friend—a young man, in the prime of life, struck down by cancer. And, to the right, a few rows ahead, sat another friend, now a 20something widow.
Death does sting.
What is truly awesome for the person who has been ushered into glory—who, absent from his or her body is present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8)—is the same event that has dealt a lifelong, traumatic blow to those left behind in death’s wake.
Yes, there will be healing; yes, there is hope, but they both intermingle with grief. And in those moments when we are touched by death—a miscarriage, a friend’s passing, a parent’s last words, a spouse’s final breath—we’re forced to contemplate the reality that we may often tend to ignore: We are mortal.
Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). In his Rule, Benedict encouraged this spiritual practice: “Have death always before our eyes.” How morbid, right? But how essential to what it means to receive God’s good gift of life and to live that life well. How differently would we each live if we knew today was our last on earth? We so easily forget that life is short, that life is precious, that we ought to live it to the fullest. Yet when we live in purposeful awareness of our mortality, we are better able to live this earthly life abundantly (John 10:10).1
Shaking Our Fist at Death
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