Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
The fear of death is like the fear I had as a boy of playing my first solo in a music competition. For weeks beforehand fear gnawed at my insides, because I did not know what to expect. In the same way, the fear of death is a fear of the unknown. Death seems like a dark passage that hides what lies beyond it. We do not know what to expect when we step through its murky depths. We wonder: What is dying like? What will we feel? What lies on its other side? What will happen to us? These worrisome questions feed our fears, making the prospect of dying even worse. We would like assurances of our well being when we pass through it. We would like to see its dark secrets lifted so we would know what to expect.
The devil is apt to play upon your fears of the unknown to terrorize you before you die. He will not give you a moments peace, if he can help it, but strive to drive you into a frenzy. I remember a young man who was dying. When I visited him an hour or two before his death, his eyes looked like white platters, bulging with fright. I suspect the devil had been conjuring up the worst, sordid pictures of death in his mind.
You don’t have to be scared to death of death. Jesus, our beloved Savior, taught us how to die. At his death, unafraid and confident, he quoted Psalm 31:5: “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” Trusting in his Father to deliver him, he put his soul in his Father’s hands and let go of his bodily life on earth. He knew his Father would take his soul to himself in heaven. Jesus’ expressed this confidence in Luke 23:43, when he told the thief on the cross next to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” In the same way, by faith commit your soul into your Father’s hands and leave go of your bodily life on this earth. You know from his Word what will then happen to you. As in Jesus’ case, he will take your soul to himself in heaven. So what do you have to be afraid of? Paradise lies on the other side of death. Heaven will be your new home. In your dying moments keep this in mind.
A professor and former pastor once told me a touching story of what dying is like. He said dying is like when we as little children fell asleep at grandma’s house, and after mom and dad had driven us home, we woke up in our own room. So it is with dying. We fall asleep here on earth and wake up in the room Jesus has prepared for us in heaven (See John 14:2, 3).
Jesus said death is a sleep in John 11:11. This being true, like Jesus, at your death place your soul into your Father’s hands, confident you will wake up the next instant in paradise. We learned to believe this as children when our parents taught us to pray:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
If we believe this, as we did when we were little children, our fears of death will evaporate.
Years ago I visited a sixteen year old boy who was paralyzed and had curvature of the spine. His spine was twisting his body, slowly strangling the life out of him. He required surgery to weld rods along his spine to straighten it. His doctors gave him no better than a fifty percent chance to survive the surgery. I asked him, If you live through the surgery, will you be better off than you are now?
Yes, he answered.
And if you died on the operating table, I asked him, where would you be then?
In heaven, he said.
Then, no matter what happens to you, I told him, you will be better off than you are now. Isnt that right?
The same holds true for you. Even if you should die, you will be better off than you are here, for you will be in heaven with your Lord. You cant lose. So what do you have to fear? Death is merely the doorway through which you step into heaven.