The End of The End
"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
-Solomon from Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
These wise words of Solomon cut to the heart of our culture. I live in a college town and am "Facebook friends" with many students in college. Every weekend I see students heading off to their houses of mirth and feasting, trying to put off thoughts of "The End" of all mankind, death. We all try to do this. No one likes to think about losing the ones we love. We even have a holiday where scary deathlike things are dressed up and kids get candy. We distract ourselves however we can from being confronted with the thing we will all face.
This wasn't always the case. Jonathan Edwards, one of the foremost thinkers in America in the 1700s, wrote in his resolutions: "Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death." Martin Luther (1500s) echoed these sentiments in his statement: "We should familiarize ourselves with death during our lifetime, inviting death into our presence when it is still at a distance and on the move."
This idea given to us by Solomon and affirmed by these great Christian men is a tough pill to swallow. I think most of us would choose to go to a party rather than a funeral. But, the funerals are the places where we really think about the worth of life and how we are living. I was reminded of this yesterday as I attended the funeral of a friend's father who recently died of cancer. Yes, there was much mourning. But in the midst of that great growth and wisdom occur. These things don't take place at your usual frat party or Thanksgiving feast.
Instead of running away from death, we need to be familiar with it. We need to get used to the idea that it is coming. Either our own death or the death of someone close to us will confront us. Will you be ready? Will you have the promises of God from 1 Corinthians 15 close at hand to rest on? Are you living your life now in light of your end, whenever that may come?
One of the reasons we can confront this "End" without fear is because Christ has already conquered it. Hebrews 2:14-15 tell us "...that through death, he [Jesus] might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery."
Death has indeed been swallowed up in victory, it has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-55), and it shouldn't be something we try to avoid thinking about. It is a reality of this life and we need to live anticipating its coming rather than avoiding it.
To close, here is a song I've always found very helpful in thinking about death. We've done it at several funerals I've been a part of. I hope you are encouraged by it.