Insomnia, Fear of Death
In this series we are calling “Insomnia: the Lies that Keep You Up at Night”, we’re going to look at some doubts and fears that can cause, among other problems, sleepless nights.
We all have certain doubts and fears that don’t just go away because it’s time to go to bed. When the day settles down, the kids are down for the night, the TV is off, you’re free from social media, and you’re all alone with only your thoughts, you can easily drift into these moments.
And in the darkness those fearful thoughts can grow.
The premise of this series is that behind those doubts and fears is a lie that we believe, more accurately – several lies. These sleepless nights can be banished if we replace those shallow lies with deep truths.
Over the last couple weeks we talked about our fear of rejection. Underneath our fear of rejection is the lie that we’re not good enough, the lie is that we just don’t measure up to the standards others have for us, or maybe the standards that we think God has for us. So we waste our energy trying to constantly prove ourselves. The truth is that we are already accepted by God. God accepts us not based on our work but on the work accomplished by Christ on the Cross. And if God already accepts us in Christ then we don’t have to fear rejection from anyone else, that fear is really a waste of time.
We also looked at our fears about money. The second lie is that money and possessions bring greater security and greater happiness. And that more money will bring more happiness. The truth is that having more doesn’t make us happier, and deep down we know it.
This week we are looking at what statistics say is the second greatest fear people have.
The greatest fear is the fear of what I am doing right now – public speaking. The greatest fear is public speaking, and the second greatest fear is the fear of death. That means that, at any given funeral, there are people who would rather be in the casket than doing the readings. Most of you can probably understand the fear of speaking in public and it’s just as easy to understand the fear of death. But why?
- We fear death because it’s natural to fear it. It is kind of instinctual. We have a natural inclination to protect ourselves and for self-preservation.
- We fear death because it’s unknown. We’ve never died before, and nobody who has experienced it has told us what to expect. It’s an experience shrouded in mystery.
- We fear death because of what it might mean for our family. You may be the provider for your household, and your death could leave your family in financial need, and grief-stricken.
- We fear death because of the joys of life we would miss – like kids or grandkids growing up, weddings, holidays, all those special events.
And along with the fear of our own death, we fear the death of a loved one. If you have children, you may fear the death of your child more than your own. For some of you this has happened, and you never really get over it. You go on with your life, but it’s forever changed. Maybe you fear the loss of your spouse. You don’t know how you would raise your kids alone or how you could handle the loneliness.
These are all real possibilities. Even so, there are two lies we buy into when it comes to death.If we disarm them and embrace the truth, we can be well on the way to overcoming our fear of death.
Let’s look at today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke. Here’s what Luke tells us,
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus.
The Sadducees were a kind of political party, who drew their power from Temple worship. They depended on the Romans to maintain their positions, and they were rivals of the Pharisees. But jealousy of Jesus and his popularity united the Sadducees and Pharisees. They agreed on little else. The Sadducees wanted peace with Rome. The Pharisees wanted to fight them. The Sadducees had a very strict interpretation of Scripture, considering only the first five books to be from God. The Pharisees saw all of the law and the prophets as important. But most significantly the Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. They thought this life was all there was.
And that’s the first lie we can buy into when it comes to death, a lie that leads to a fear of death. Despite what we say, some of us have entertained the thought that this mystery of death is the end. But the whole premise of the Christian faith is that Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave and that, because he rose from the dead, we can share in his resurrection. Death is the door to something more. Death is not the end but the beginning of life. But the lie is that death is the end. That’s the Sadducees; they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body and life after death.
In this encounter they try to discredit Jesus with this inscrutable problem that they hope will make him look foolish and support their own belief system. So, they pose this question,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. The second and the third and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally, the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.’ ”
Their whole proposition is intended to make the discussion about life after death look silly. You’ve probably had conversations like this yourself with people who don’t believe and want to make your belief look foolish. That’s what’s happening here.
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
Marriage doesn’t exist in heaven. It’s til “death do you part”. Love for a spouse may go on, but the marriage ends with death. We believe that you will know your spouse and all your loved ones in heaven. But your relationship will be changed and transformed.
And Jesus goes on to refute their arguments with their own Scripture.
“That the dead will rise, even Moses made known
in the passage about the bush, when he calls the
Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Jesus uses Exodus, the second book of the Bible, a book the Sadducees believed to be from God, as a way to refute their claims that death is the end. And he adds that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You may hear this at funerals, and it can sound trite, but the people who die in God’s mercy, are in a better place, more alive than we are.
For some people their images of heaven are entirely banal. Fluffy clouds and chubby cherubs and harp music…
The second lie is this dull and boring view of sitting around in the clouds. We may think like this because we don’t even have the imagination to begin to conceptualize it.
Even Jesus himself didn’t try to describe it to us, because he knew we don’t have the ability to conceive of it. All we can do is accept it in faith, embracing the mystery of it, relying on what God does say about it. The truth is it will be filled with God’s glory, so it will be perfect.
Perhaps the best argument for heaven is the human heart. Everything in us rebels against the idea that death is the end. Despite our worst fears, we don’t want death to have the final word in our lives. We refuse to accept that. Innately, we know there is something more.
You know, in every aspect of life where we experience a need, God fills it. We need nourishment, and there is food. We thirst, and there is water. We need knowledge to live and to serve God, and he gives us intelligence.
But God also fulfills our deep desires. We desire in our hearts something that cannot be fulfilled by this world. The world makes promises that are never quite delivered.
Our desires direct us to that which is really more than this world offers. We desire light and life, and that is what Christ promises.
A scripture passage that is often chosen for Catholic funerals says it best.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,…They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
So I would ask you to tell Jesus often how much you believe and are grateful that he died on the cross for you and that he rose from the dead to give you the promise of everlasting life.
We have nothing to fear about death.