The Unnatural Nature of Death
By Anthony Casperson
When someone you know dies, you tend to think about the fragility of mortal life. Your mind contemplates how strange and unfair death is. It reminds you how fleeting this vapor of an existence is in the grand scheme of things.
At least, that’s how my mind has been working for a while now. I learned early in the week that one of my uncles died.
It wasn’t unexpected. He had been in the hospital for a little while. And from what my dad said, my uncle had sounded to him like he was close to the end. So, when the call came a few days later that he had passed, it wasn’t a surprise.
And though the passing of a family member is never a joyous moment, I know that when Jesus returns, my uncle will be with him. As a fellow follower of Jesus, I know that he has gone to be with his Lord. It’s not the end.
Yet my mind continues to dwell on the unfairness of death. Or perhaps, I should say the unnatural nature of death itself.
Though for all humanity’s history, death has been seen as a “natural” thing, something that everyone eventually will come to experience, it wasn’t meant to be. We beings made of dust and the breath of God were created for life, not death. The man and woman created in God’s glorious garden were meant to live forever in close relationship with him.
The creation of God was meant to thrive eternal. But when sin entered the picture, when humanity went against the command of God, the natural order that God placed in his creation changed. Life became a prison with sin as our guard. And the only way to break that bond was death. (Both our death to put an end to our sin-wracked bodies, and the death of Jesus who can free us from the penalty of sin.)
The whole of nature flipped when sin entered the picture. The things that once were natural now seem unnatural to us. And the unnatural seem natural. We think of death as a natural end to life. Like that’s how it was always meant to be.
And yet in our hearts, we fight and strive against death. We seek ways to stop it, to slow it down. Why do we seek to put an end to this “natural” thing? Because we have some sort of residual knowledge that humanity wasn’t meant to die. God’s intended purpose of humanity living forever in his presence resides in us.
One day, that purpose of God will come to fruition. Sin and death, whose end began at the cross of Jesus, will be placed in the lake of fire, the eternal death. They will no longer haunt we who are in the presence of God.
And the natural way for which God created the universe to exist will be seen again.
I want to end my thoughts there, because that’s all I want to say about death. But I don’t want my words to be used in a way they weren’t intended to be used. My above statements are merely a way for me to process. They’re meant to theologically think about death.
But they aren’t meant to comfort someone who mourns their loved ones. No one should use these words when they attempt to comfort another. No words, no matter how true, will comfort someone contemplating the unnatural nature of death. So don’t try it. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
If you know someone who’s currently in that place, be there for them. Be a shoulder to cry on. Be an ear to listen to the questions, not a voice to speak words that will never comfort. The most loving thing we can do for one who mourns is let them process in their own way and be there in whatever manner they need us.