Living in Light of Death
by BILL ADAMS
I have a not-so-popular topic for your consideration: Death. We avoid this notion like the plague. As philosopher Woody Allen put it, “I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” But there is eternal value in embracing the terminal reality that each one of us must face.
In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon goes after this idea. Grabbing the reader’s attention with shock and awe, Solomon declares, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” (Ec.1:2 NKJV). Vanity translates “breath” or “vapor” and indicates that while this life is like a candle that burns, it is more like the smoke that dissipates when once the flame is extinguished. The sage wants us to know this temporal life is but a breath in light of eternity.
Consider the relatively short span between two breaths: The first we took at birth; the last we’ll take at death. We are dependent on God for every gasp of oxygen in between. And what of that last breath? Try this little exercise: Stop yourself from breathing (just for a moment!) and imagine that you’ve breathed your last. In that “near-death” moment, think about how you’ve lived, how you’ve loved, and if you’re ready for eternity.
Solomon the Wise adds, “There is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool!” (Ec.2:16). It seems the wisest man figured out that all of us, clever or not, end up at the same death’s door, pass beyond it, and are easily forgotten.
Now, none of this is to lead us to despair! Rather, it should provoke us to seek the Source, the Giver of life…for there has to be something more than this fleeting breath of vapor. I searched that out and found answers when I was a young man. Since then, as a Jesus-follower, I’ve been seeking to live by the maxim, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Ph. 1:21). That’s got me living in light of eternity. How about you?
All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers and its flower falls away. But the word of the Lord endures forever.