What I’m Thankful For

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for many things, but one of the things I appreciate most might surprise you. It’s death. Yes, I’m thankful for death. Most people don’t want to die. Even those of us who believe in heaven aren’t wanting to go there anytime soon. The Bible explains death as a consequence of sin.  God told Adam and Eve, “The day you eat of the fruit, you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). They ate. But they didn’t die. At least not right away. So I don’t think death was just a punishment for sin as much as it was God’s greatest act of mercy.

Just imagine what this life would be like if it never came to an end. For starters, there would be nothing to look forward to and no sense of urgency; nothing motivating us to get things done “while there’s still time.” Our bodies would grow old and chronic illness would set in. Pain would constantly gnaw at us like a hungry dog gnaws a bone. There would be no release. No end to our misery. No final rest for the weary. The blind would continue to stumble through life, bumping into unseen obstacles. The lame would go on dragging heavy limbs. The deaf would never hear birds sing or a baby coo. There would be no ultimate healing. No crossing the river. No reunion with loved ones. There would be no reckoning. No final judgment.  No settling of accounts. All of the old injustices would remain. Wrongs would never be made right. Hurts would never be healed. Even in those cases where lives are cut tragically short, we can only guess what trials and tribulations the victims were spared by an untimely death.

Eleven days ago my mother-in-law Amy Phillips died after losing a long and sometimes painful battle with breast cancer. I’m glad she was finally able to die, even though she will be deeply missed by her family and friends who now mourn her loss. At the end of her life Amy longed “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). It wasn’t a death wish, but an expression of hope in Christ and his promises. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Like my mother-in-law, I believe that promise with all my heart. But even if I didn’t believe in an afterlife or didn’t know what lies beyond death’s door, I’d still be thankful for death. Compared with the alternative, it’s a blessing.

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3 Comments

Filed under devotionals, personal

3 responses to “What I’m Thankful For

  1. Glenn Bratcher

    Our God is an awesome God…who keeps His promises! After death, something to live for indeed!

    Thanks, Travis

  2. Jeremy

    Hi Travis,
    I guess I conceive of death differently (though whether more broadly or more narrowly is a matter of perspective). Death in some form occurs constantly on the cellular level. Death in this discrete way also relates to disease, for if the cell was able to protect itself from pathogens and mutation, it would sustain itself. But for some reason we aren’t able to understand, there is a switch (I think it’s related to T-cells) that tell the cell to allow itself to age and begin to deteriorate – a process which leads to the problems you humanely describe (wh/ could have happened right there in the garden). Without death on this cellular level, however, these problems wouldn’t exist. In other words, the release and freedom you describe derives its power from the confluence of death and aging/disease.

    I’m also not sure that death as you describe it provides the ultimate impetus for “getting things done,” but at the same time, that idea isn’t really that important to your main point of the “gift” of death. I understand that, in the case of your mom-in-law Amy Phillips, it was an event that brought relief to her and your family. I’m just saying that “the whys” you present don’t make sense to me – and they don’t need to, either. It’s a tough thing to tackle in the blog, in any case, and I appreciate your sharing. We’ll be praying for further understanding and peace for you and your family.

    Take care,
    Jeremy

    • Hi, Jeremy.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I truly appreciate your prayers for my family.

      What if we couldn’t die? Contrary-to-fact scenarios like this one make easy targets for criticism, but I believe they are still worth exploring. I was using the term “death” in the narrow sense of the termination of an individual’s physical existence on earth. If you think of death more broadly—as any kind of decay, disease, or defect—then it changes the scenario completely. You’re right, with that definition death is more problem than solution. But bodily ailments are not the only “evil” we contend with on earth. There are natural disasters and countless moral evils committed by people. Those things are enough to make this life a “vale of tears.” Take away death (earthly life coming to an end) from life as we now know it, and life wouldn’t be better. It would be torture. If you take away all evils (physical, environmental, moral), then you no longer have life as we know it. It would be paradise, which is what we hope for in the next life.

      I hope this helps and please feel free to respond, anytime.

      Peace,
      Travis

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