It seems that for all the niceties of the world, most people are unaware that they are only about five minutes to midnight. The necessary complement to being alive is neither glamorous nor grand, no matter how hard culture may try to persuade us otherwise: death, when it strikes, levels all. Irrespective of age, ethnicity, cultural status, socio-economic position, or any other measure, death is indiscriminate when it makes its claim. We sit down for coffee, clock in for our nine-to-five’s, and lay ourselves down to sleep without so much as a thought direct to the muted timpani of our heartbeats – and the very tangible reality that, one day, it will stop.
Sheesh, morbid stuff, I know. It is a sad reality that for so many, a life beyond the world in which they currently live is inconceivable. But the greater tragedy is that in trying to find meaning in this life, they embrace the fleeting good of worldly hedonism – it is sophistry at best, like trying to cast a shadow in the dark. Or perhaps it is more like moonshine, not just in the artifice of its light, but also in the cold lifelessness of that world. The other end of that spectrum is no less satisfying. Sure, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, and Sartre might have been good fun in university, but existentialism tends to grow old with age. Nevertheless, some people are content to walk toward that sad fate, and are happy to find meaning in meaninglessness.
What about Christians? What do we look forward to when death beckons us closer? When our mental and physical faculties begin to fail us, and we grow increasingly frail as time passes? “The wages of sin is death,” writes Paul, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We must concede that death happens because sin happens; death is a reality because sin is a reality. But we are lucid enough to realise that the most harrowing truth is that death is the working of our own hands. Even as Frankenstein was taken aback in horror as “the Adam of [his] labours” gritted his teeth at him and rasped, “You are my Creator!” so too does death hideously posture itself before us as the product of our sinfulness.
“But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is our solace in calamity, and the hope that is set before us (Hebrews 6:18-19).