Death Anxiety and the Force (Part 2)

Humble Beast, as a ministry, has always strived to deliver transparent content. That is why I felt it was important to talk about an issue that has been a point of shame for me throughout my life:  death anxiety.

In my last post, I discussed this issue and presented my four main concerns about death:

1.   I don’t want to miss out on anything.

2.   When and how I will die?

3.   Doubt.

4.   Fear of the unknown.

In this post, I’d like to share how God has been walking me through each of these concerns. Please note that walking is in the present tense. You won’t find me sitting in a booth, passing out pamphlets with a button on my chest reading, “I beat death anxiety in ten easy steps. Ask me how!”  My anxiety is current; current, but no longer crippling. Praise his name!

1.   I don’t want to miss out on anything.

Last week, I shared that the Star Wars films have been a trigger for my death anxiety. I love Star Wars and worry that I may die before seeing all the films. So of course, last Thursday, the day after my blog post goes up, I see an article on the front page of titled “You Won’t Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie”1. God is hilarious. The article, in short, states that Disney/Lucasfilm intend to release a Star Wars film annually for as long as there’s a demand. If I follow this to its logical conclusion, I can expect to die before seeing all of the Star Wars films. This leaves me with two options:

1.   I can hitch a ride to Bespin, jump in a carbon freezing chamber, freeze myself in carbonite, hope that a princess disguised as a bounty hunter unfreezes me after the last Star Wars film is released, and enjoy an epic marathon.

2.   I can trust that what God has in store for me in heaven is infinitely more rewarding than anything I would believe myself to be missing out on earth. Revelation 7:16-17 says:

16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Every tear. He will wipe away my tears from family left behind, friends lost, and yes, even Star Wars films unseen. When I enter the kingdom of heaven, my eyes will be set on God. I will not miss a thing.  

2.   When and how I will die?

A while back, I was discussing my death anxiety with a good friend, and I brought up this question. Our good brother Christopher “CJ” Walk had recently passed away. In his last days, his last moments, he praised God and said, “I’m ready to be with my Savior.” My anxiety about my own death barred me from understanding how CJ passed with peace and joy in his heart. As I imagined myself in his position, I could only picture myself crying out, “Please! Not yet! I’m not ready to die!” My friend reminded me that for the believer, the Holy Spirit brings peace. It was not through his own willpower, but through the Spirit of God, that CJ was able to face death so fearlessly. He trusted the words of Romans 8:38, and knew that death could not separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ. When I asked my friend if he was afraid to die, he pointed me to Matthew 6:27:

"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"

He instead encouraged me to focus on the fact that God has a purpose for our lives here on Earth, and once we’ve fulfilled that purpose, he will take us home.

If you are reading this right now, then you are alive. If you are alive, God is still using you for his purposes. God is sovereign. Therefore, you are invincible until the day he decides to take you home.

3.   Doubt.

A man once brought his son to Jesus, asking him to cast out an unclean spirit. Jesus then instructed the father to bring the boy to him.  Mark 9:20-24 explains what happened next:

"20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ 23 And Jesus said to him, ‘“If you can”! All things are possible for one who believes.’ 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Although the only time my son ever fell to the ground, convulsing and foaming at the mouth was when I told him to turn off the video games and go to bed, I can relate to this father. “I believe; help my unbelief!” It’s something I pray often.

From time to time, when my anxiety is at its worst, I think to myself, “What if there is no God and no heaven? What if when we die, nothing? Eternal nothing.”  Although these thoughts are rare and fleeting, they have caused an immense amount of stress and shame in my life. Stress, because I never know when that What if? is going to present itself again; and shame, because when it does, I feel like a “bad Christian.”

But then I pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Over and over again, I pray this prayer. And then, something wonderful happens: My shame disappears, because my doubt hasn’t driven me away from God, but toward him.  

Theologian Os Guinness once wrote:

"If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt. If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger. It knows God more certainly and it can enjoy God more deeply."

Where doubt was once a tool to grow my anxieties, God has now made it a tool to grow my faith.

4.   Fear of the unknown.

When I was a small child, I used to hate singing worship songs at church. I thought they were boring and that they dragged on forever. One day, I asked my mom what heaven was like. She said that it would be a place where we would worship God forever and ever. All I could picture was singing boring Sunday morning worship songs for eternity. I cried.

What I did as a child, we often do as adults. I redesigned heaven in my mind so that I could try to comprehend the incomprehensible. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says

9 But, as it is written,
    “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
    what God has prepared for those who love him”

Trying to imagine what heaven will be like is an exercise in futility. No amount of will or desire will allow you to conjure up that which cannot be imagined. This used to be a point of frustration for me. As God matures and sanctifies me however, my desire has changed. I no longer wish to understand heaven. Instead, I thank God that he has created something so wonderful that I cannot understand it, and because of what his son accomplished on the cross, it is promised to me.

Death still scares me sometimes. If I’m honest with myself, life does too. But I thank God for anything that causes me to draw nearer to him.



Image credit to Scott Smith: