I was a freshman in high school when my brother and best friend William was hit by a truck and killed. That excruciating experience has played a formative role in my life, and out of crushing sadness it has helped me find joy and hope in all circumstances.
Everybody wants to be happy and everybody dies. The work, the struggle, the highs, the lows, the joys, and the sorrows will end in death. Some people may live virtuous lives and others may not, but both will have the same end. For all the complexity and variety of human experience, on this earth all people have the same starting point and the same ending point. Usually the full reality of death doesn’t hit us until a loved one dies, but when it happens the taste is bitter and the pain is real.
The amazing thing is that death seldom bothers the average person. Normal people focus on work, school, and relationships, not the end of life. In fact this article may seem morbid to you because of its focus on death. Most of us come to ignore it and spend our time trying to finish that degree, get that date, or get that job. "Death isn’t going to ruin my pursuit of happiness,” we say. Or we may console ourselves with Master Yoda’s wisdom: “Death is a natural part of life.” But what about the deep pain and loss? Is grief merely a biological and psychological response, without any true meaning? Or is it a clue pointing to something much more significant?
I am a Christian and I believe that death is not ultimately meaningless. Death means that this world is not what it was originally created to be. Death is not God’s way, it is the tragic result of us saying to God “our way is better than yours.” When humankind turned away from God, we broke our relationship with the Giver of all life. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, and our grief is a potent reminder that in our world and in ourselves, all is not well. The writer C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
If God speaks to us in our pains, what does He want us to know? According to Jesus, there is hope because God cares for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” he said. Jesus himself died that we might be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with God—and that’s good news. What’s more, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that he has power over sin and death. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will,” Jesus said. Eternal life means us knowing God and enjoying a personal relationship with Him forever.
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, his sisters mourned and couldn’t understand why Jesus had not intervened. The reason, Jesus said, was that he might raise Lazarus from the dead so that they would believe. While Lazarus was still in the tomb even Jesus wept for him, but he knew the story would not end in despair. Raising Lazarus from the dead was to glorify Jesus and show the world hope beyond death. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
Losing my brother William was heartbreaking, but it ultimately made me realize something important. Because of what God did for us, we have hope beyond death. Engraved on my brother’s tombstone are the words Jesus said to Martha, Lazarus’ sister: YOUR BROTHER WILL RISE AGAIN.
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