When Do You Want to Die? (18 February)

For we know that when this tent we live in―our body here on earth―is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home he himself has made, which will last forever. And now we sigh, so great is our desire that our home which comes from heaven should be put on over us; by being clothed with it we shall not be without a body. While we live in this earthly tent, we groan with a feeling of oppression; it is not that we want to get rid of our earthly body, but that we want to have the heavenly one put on over us, so that what is mortal will be transformed by life. … We know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord's home. … We are full of courage and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and be at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:1-8

A friend of mine was attending a counselling seminar on the subject of trauma and how to deal with death. To the surprise of the participants, the lecturer opened the evening by asking this question: "At what age do you want to die?" When the answers were read out after a few minutes, some people optimistically said they wanted to live until 80 or 90. Others gave a more spiritual answer and said they wanted to live just as long as God planned for them.

My friend thought for only a moment before he wrote down his answer. The seminar was taking place in March. He was 55 years old, his 56th birthday would be in April, not too many days away. Without much hesitation he answered the question: 55. He wanted to die as soon as possible.

This sounds like a strange answer indeed. Is this a person with a death wish? Is his life so miserable that he is contemplating suicide? I know this man well. He is happily married, never suffers from depression, and is generally pleased with the life that God has given him. So why did he want to die so soon?

He explained to me that he lives with a daily strong desire to go to be with the Lord Jesus. He understands the difficulty his death could cause for his family and friends, and that makes for a certain tension and an awareness that there is a measure of selfishness in his desire to depart to be with God.

And yet, is not his desire for heaven one that should characterize all of us? The apostle Paul knew this tension, when, in (Philippians 1) he said that he wanted to go be with the Lord but he was torn by the need to stay on for fruitful service. Surely it is better for us to live with the daily desire for heaven than to live without hope, like the unbelievers.

© 2012 United Bible Societies - Palestinian Bible Society, Bible Society in Israel, and Arab Israeli Bible Society. All rights reserved.