Monday, May 4, 2015

what I'm reading: preparing for death

The day of death is the greatest day that a Christian can ever experience in this world because that is the day he goes home, the day he walks across the threshold, the day he enters the Father's house.
You won't find a shelf labelled "death" at your local Christian bookstore. Have a look, and tell me if I'm wrong. My guess is that you'll find shelves marked "marriage" and "prayer", but probably not a section on dying.

Your local Puritan bookstore (if there was such a thing) would have been different. You'd find plenty of books on marriage and prayer - the Puritans were great practical theologians - but there'd also be a shelf labelled "dying well". And that's not because they were gloomy do-gooders, as the stereotype goes, but because they were wise and happy realists.

We could do with more modern Christian books on death. Not just on the practical aspects of dying or the stages of grief, but on how to "do death well", with faith and hope and courage. Death is something we will all come to. It's scary and overwhelming, and it would be good for us to know how to prepare for it.

And so I'd like to recommend RC Sproul's Surprised by suffering: a book about suffering with a particular focus on death. Despite the topic, it's not dreary or depressing, but joyful and uplifting. I suggest you read it now. Don't save it for the time you need it, when you may not be able to read at all.

To encourage you today, and to whet your appetite for more, here's a brief sample:
We have considered suffering as a vocation. Dare we think of death as a vocation, too? ... Every one of us is called to die ... Sometimes the call comes suddenly and without warning. Sometimes it comes with advance notification. But it comes to all of us. And it comes from God. ...

Because of Christ, death is not final. It is a passage from one world to the next. ...

The valley of the shadow of death is a valley where the sun's rays often seem to be blotted out. To approach it is to tremble. We would prefer to walk around it, to seek a sage bypass. But men and women of faith can enter that valley without fear ...

God will not send us where He refused to go Himself ...

The valley of the shadow of death is not a box canyon. It is a passageway to a better country ... The goal of the vocation of death is heaven itself. But there is no route to heaven except through that valley.

Quotes are from RC Sproul Surprised by suffering 39, 49-56.

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