“The time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).

IF WE DIE IN CHRIST, IT IS ENCOURAGING TO KNOW THAT GOD WILL BE THERE WITH US WHEN WE DIE. We should certainly have the confidence that David had: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). But although He will help us, it is still we who will have to die.

Some people die well, and some people die poorly. Some die courageously while others die like cowards. Some die in faith and humility and gratitude, but others die in stubborn, defiant rebellion against the God who made them. There are all kinds of ways to die, and some of us might wish we could turn over the task of our dying to someone who would do a better job of it.

But such is impossible, of course. In this sense, each of us must die alone, each assuming responsibility for the manner in which he or she faces death. It will be up to each of us to think and act rightly about our death as we approach that great moment.

Christ’s death on the cross can save us from the “second death” (Revelation 21:8), but nothing (except a preemptive return by Christ) can save us from the first death, the death of our physical bodies. Now and then, some noble person might wish he could have died in the place of somebody else, just as David wished he could have died in the place of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33), but this is never really possible. We are, as the song says, going down the valley “one by one.” Even if two people jump hand-in-hand from a burning building and fall to their deaths on the street below, they have still not died “together.” Each has died as a solitary being, thinking thoughts that no one knows but God, their Maker. Dying is the most individual thing any of us will ever do.

Jackson Browne’s song “For a Dancer” makes this point well. I don’t agree with his bleak assessment of the meaning of death, but Browne is absolutely correct when his song says, “No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown, in the end there is one dance you’ll do alone.” So I would ask you, as I ask myself: what will you do when you have to do this thing that no one can do for you?

“Every man must do two things alone: he must do his own believing and his own dying” (Martin Luther).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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