I am going to die.
Every laugh, every cry, every smile, and every tear brings me one step closer to the inevitable truth that I face. Just as all those who have gone before me, my life will one day fade away just as quickly as the wind blows and the flowers fade. I am plagued with the disease of death, and so are you.
Do what you will to drown out the thought of death — drugs, alcohol, food, sex, you name it. Attempt to escape it through parties, frivolous busyness, work, etc. Desperately fight against it through exercise and healthy eating habits. Maybe, if you’re like me, you try to escape this morbid reality by studying theology and philosophy as much as you can, hoping to somehow solve all the mysteries and pain of the world through the acquisition of knowledge and so-called wisdom. Maybe you push away the thought with comedy, as I often do as well. But no matter how hard you try, the drunkenness will eventually pass and the knowledge will not satisfy. You find your head hitting your pillow at 1:00 a.m., and for a brief moment you ask yourself, “is this all there is?,” right before you drift into the anesthesia of life. If we are honest, we spend all our days trying to avoid the very questions and thoughts that we are left alone with as we lie in bed. A warm body next to you can’t revive your soul, and the things of this world that claim to satisfy never measure up to their end of the bargain. Life, to be brutally honest, often feels like a cruel joke. The moment that I begin to feel happy, it quickly vanishes, as if snatched from my hands and my soul. Happiness is elusive — when I chase it, I can never quite find it. Yet when I do not search for it, it finds me. Yet even then, its appearance is as brief as the wind. Just like a sandcastle on the beach, the beauty of happiness is washed away within a moment. I look back on moments of my life in which I felt alive — a thriving soul with eternity written on my heart. I experience those moments in my mind — the place, the people, the memory. Yet when I return to that place with those people, in an effort to recreate a glimpse of unadulterated joy, I feel cheated. Perhaps the past is never as good as it seems. Perhaps our remembrance of the past is nothing more than a crafted and fabricated memory, distorting the reality of the moment to once again drive back the unavoidable rendezvous with death. Or, perhaps these nostalgic memories are God’s way of lodging eternity within our hearts, reminding us that one day, life will become what it was always meant to be. Death is a doorway.
This life isn’t the end.
The peculiar beauties hidden within this world reveal glimpses of the lost garden of Eden. A child’s smile and a bird’s song both suggest that there is more to life than what it seems, but we are all too busy to notice it. Too busy doing what? Too busy trying to be happy in a world full of pain and suffering. To busy trying to find meaning in a life that is fleeting. Too busy trying to acquire all that we can, before the grave robs us of what we have. But true happiness, meaning, and joy is found in accepting the gifts of life from God, realizing that no matter how much we toil to control our life, death comes for us all. Nothing in this life will ever make me happy. And the sooner I realize this, the sooner I can become happy.
A paradox, perhaps. But truth, nonetheless. The gifts of God are designed to be enjoyed, not idolized. Life is a gift, and one day the gift will be returned to He who gave it. But in that moment, the pure peace and joy that my soul longs for will finally come to fruition.
I have read many books, listened to many sermons, and have almost read the entire Bible. Yet with all this knowledge comes more grief, as Solomon says. Despite my theological and philosophical intellect, almost all falls to the waist side when suffering comes my way. Knowledge and wisdom cannot heal brokenness, for true suffering is an experience of the soul rather than the mind. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil brings upon grief and sadness. I cannot comprehend the fearful sorrow felt by Jews as they witnessed each other burn in gas chambers, or watched their own babies be lobbed into the air and shot. I cannot understand the emotions felt by a kid in a third-world country, who hears the sounds of his mother being raped every night, as he covers his sister’s ears in hopes she does not hear the cries of true brokenness and anguish. I cannot imagine the weeping of faithful couples who endure the throbbing ache of a miscarriage, or the intimate struggle of infertility. Yet I remain hopeful, knowing that although this life brings many troubles, it is not the end. For those of us in Christ, we will one day enjoy an eternal bite from the Tree of Life.
There is no escaping the suffering and pain of this world. Whether it’s the starving kid in Africa or the child of divorced parents in America, no human being is without brokenness. It gives me hope, however, to know that my Savior intimately knows this, walking alongside me as He guides me to a place where I belong. As Philip Yancey says, “the surgery of life hurts. It helps me, though, to know that the surgeon himself, the Wounded Surgeon, has felt every stab of pain and every sorrow.” I do not need to know everything; in fact, God has limited me in such a way that I never could know everything. And the good thing is that I don’t need to. Rather than giving me answers into all the mysteries of this world, He simply gives me His Presence.
For many, death brings a sense of uneasiness and restlessness to them. They seek to do anything to occupy their mind so as to avoid what cannot be avoided. Yet, for me, death brings with it a sense of true happiness. There will come a day in which Jesus will restore all things, bringing an end to all death and crying and proclaiming peace and love forevermore. Only by living in light of death can one truly live happy, for only then is one free.
Enjoy life for what it is — a gift.
God has set eternity in our hearts. We long for something more than this world. And one day, we will get it.
“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” — Revelation 21:4