It's not dark yet, but it's getting there


#1

I’m scared of dying. Come on folks, admit you are too :smiley: . Not death, the act of dying. I’m not afraid of that. I’m scared of nothingness, of oblivion.

So is that why I believe in God? Because I cannot face the reality of eternal death, of nothingness?

Tell me.


#2

Hi Johnny,

Yeah, I know of what you speak, but I doubt you believe in God just because of fear of death. I certainly cannot speak for anyone else, (and certainly not you :wink: ) but for myself, fear of death was nothing I thought of frequently as a young person. the hope in the ‘rapture’ mitigated any fear as a teenager, but as belief in that waned my trust in Christ and the ‘hope of the gospel’ has kept my hope alive. At times, I admit, the fear that the universe and life itself is meaningless has pressed in, but there are some core beliefs that push back the darkness and hopelessness. The core of my belief is the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This, of course, is based on the testimony of the gospels, but I must admit that the physical evidence of the Shroud of Turin ( which I believe is provided by God for our ‘scientific’ time) is supportive of this belief. The image on the shroud, I believe, is not consistent with a 13th century forgery. There is much more that could be said about the shroud, but that’s probably worth another thread. As I’ve said before, our moral outrage at the “problem of evil” is also evidence for something beyond, at least, pure materialism. The “argument from morality” is very compelling to me. Ultimately, I think there are good arguments from “reason” for either atheistic materialism or Christianity, but I choose Christianity for both the hope and the glory that view presents.


#3

Faith has many roots; fear of death no doubt is AN impetus to believe, one of the roots as it were; but we accrue so many more evidences of the truth of our faith, as we go along, that our roots go deeper than fear of death - into love and gratitude and reconciliation etc. The fear of the unknown journey we all will take - that will always be there, more or less, depending on circumstances. At least, that’s the way it works with me.

Here’s a little thought from MavPhil upon the death of a young philosopher:

"So carpe diem my friends, the hour of death is near for young and old alike. And how would you like death to find you? In what condition, and immersed in which activity? Contemplating the eternal or stuck in the mud of the mundane or lost in the diaspora of sensuous indulgence?

For some of us the harvest years come late and we hope for many such years in which to reap what we have sown, but we dare not count on them. For another and greater Reaper is gaining on us and we cannot stay the hand that wields the scythe that will cut us down."

Not so much avoiding the fear as “Feeling the fear and doing it anyway” - the title of an excellent book btw.


#4

Hey chaps

Thank you for your good, kind words. The truth, of course, like Madonna says, is that life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone. If death is the end we must all face it alone, not because we cannot be surrounded by those we love, but because we must go alone and gentle into that good night.

I’m afraid of going gentle into that good night, but I am comforted to know that Jesus was too. He cried out in his anguish and fear in the garden. My hope beyond death rests with him. But what if that hope is vain, a chimera, a desperate clinging to a way out of an unanswerable dead end?

What if our hope is in vain? What then? What if when we die, we die? Philip Larkin saw that despair, best articulated in his poem Aubade:


#5

It’s interesting to me that another person mentions “nothingness” and “oblivion” as something he fears. Most of my life I feared death because of exactly that perception.

When I had my first surgery (I’ve had only two), I was afraid of being rendered unconscious. I thought it would be like going down a deep, dark hole.

[size=150]NOTHINGNESS[/size] :smiling_imp:

I was placed on the surgery table, surrounded by the surgeon and his assistants. I was hooked up to tubes carrying liquids to my veins. I looked up at the clock. It was about 1 P.M. I didn’t know that the substance to render me unconscious was entering my system right at that moment. Then I heard something that sounded a bit like faint bells ringing. I glanced at the clock again. It was after 3 P.M. The surgery was over. My first words were, “THIS IS AMAZING!” (I was ignored). I was amazed that I experienced NOTHING. So I learned that nothingness is nothing to fear, and for that very reason; it’s nothing. “Why was I so afraid of nothingess?” I asked myself. There is no experience of nothingness because it’s nothing.

After that non-experience of nothingness, I lost my fear of death. For when we die (according to my belief) there is nothing, until we are raised in the resurrection at the last day. So the next thing of which we shall be conscious is to be awake in the resurrection. And after that? Whether we immediately will be with Christ forever, or whether we will require correction (and maybe all people will), we know that God will do His very best for each one of us. He will not permit us to experience any more discomfort than is absolutely necessary.


#6

Hi Johnny,
There is, of course, no argument or statement I could make to ‘prove’ the truth of the gospels. Even the great Gmac realized there was good evidence for the proposition that God* did not exist and our existence is meaningless. But the alternative is that God is better then you can imagine, that all will become ‘right’. It’s very similar to Allan’s ‘Puddleglum’s Wager’. You can never prove that this great and good God exists, but you can live as if* he exists even if you can’t prove it. Keep searching for arguments and evidence that ease the difficulty of believing, but hold on to the hope in the meantime. :slight_smile:


#7

I resonate with what Steve H. said. I too started out with the rapture calming my fear of death.

I no longer hope for heaven (sharing Paidion’s understanding of life and death), but in the resurrection to come. I still fear dying much of the time, but usually that’s more to do with me “chasing rabbits” in my mind about highly improbable scenarios that should have been checked at the second branch :unamused: . On the other hand I value the fragile breath God gives me, and the time I get to share it with my family, which is far too much for my heart at times…

Well I started to go into a bunch of stuff about how death is an ‘enemy’ which will one day be conquered completely, but it’s late so instead I’ll just leave this which I find curiously close to 2Timothy 1.12, and has always served as a reminder to me of our sure hope:

“…I move into my death with empty hands and without any death-proof substance in my soul, but only with my gaze focused on God’s hand and with the petition on my lips, ‘Hand that will last, hold thou me fast!’…I remain in fellowship with him who is Alpha and Omega, and with this knowledge I walk into the night of death, truly the darkest night; yet I know who awaits me in the morning.”

Grace and peace to you.


#8

I do think that the fear of death (not of hell) is an acceptable reason to come to Christ:

Since He came to free people held in slavery to the fear of death, I think that means we should come to Him to free us from the fear of death. Romans 7 & 8 tell us that “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death.” There’s a lot of explanation there, but basically, sin leads to death (as per the Garden story) and we mortals can’t stop sinning because we are literally enslaved by sin. Jesus put sin to death in His own body, and in so doing (as our representative – the representative of the race of Adam) sets us free from bondage to sin. Being set free to do what we WANT to do, we no longer need to yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness (which leads to death) but rather as instruments of righteousness (which leads to life).

Granted, this doesn’t happen immediately. We have long been slaves and the voice of our old master still has a certain compelling power over us, but we now have the means to be free – hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. “All these who are being led by the Spirit of God, these and none but these are the sons of God.” The more we allow ourselves to be led by His Spirit, the more we enter into sonship to God. We have been set free; we have only to walk through the open prison door, having been summoned by the song of the Spirit.


#9

Good comments. I should clarify my post above - citing MavPhil might have sounded callous, which I did not intend. To keep myself from obsessing about dying, getting paralyzed by the fear of it, I’ve amassed a series of defensive moves for when I feel the dark mood coming on.

Mainly things about HOW I am to live my life in the present, not losing myself in the diaspora of the sensuous as MavP put it, but with attention and affection, like the little saying under my name encourages me to do.

And the excellent little book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers was a huge help to me, after facing some serious health issues that shrunk my world through fear. Highly recommended.
amazon.com/Feel-Fear-Do-Anyway/dp/0345487427

Thanks to all, especially Cindy for pointing out the import of the Hebrews passage.


#10

Thank you Steve, Dave, Paidion, Jeremiah and Cindy for engaging on this difficult subject.

Death is pretty much still a taboo subject in modern western society. Where once it was an everyday reality - and still is in the supposedly ‘less developed’ parts of the world - in the west it is hushed up, hidden away in hospices and hospital wards. We are insulated from it as much as it is possible to be. I’ve only ever once even seen a dead body, a chap who died of a heart attack in a pub garden I was in, but I never had to look the poor guy in the face, he was just a body observed from afar.

I think you all make excellent points. And thank you Cindy for reminding me that the Bible explicitly states that one of the reasons Jesus came was to liberate us from our fear of death. Fear of death was a major factor in me becoming a Christian back in my teens, and ever since I have been haunted, from time to time, by the nagging doubt that my faith is simply a case of wish fulfilment. Every now and again I read something by some prominent atheist scoffing at religious people for their ‘cowardice’ in not being able to face the ‘reality’ of a Godless universe - Stephen Hawking or Christopher Hitchens, for example - and I think maybe they have a point. Maybe :smiley: .

Here’s my all-time favourite novelist, Raymond Chandler, waxing lyrical on this subject in his last novel, Playback. The first character speaking is an old man, Mr Clarendon, who is essentially a portrait of Chandler himself. The second is his great detective, Philip Marlowe:

I think as Christians we must face squarely up to the challenges posed by the likes of Hawking and Chandler (although if you read the above passage carefully I don’t think Chandler is espousing atheism, more a kind of tortured agnosticism - despite Marlowe’s assertion that he doesn’t believe in God).

As I said in my earlier post I find it tremendously comforting that Jesus is shown as being in mortal terror of his impending death in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is one reason why I think it’s vital that we do not ascribe any supernatural knowledge to Jesus. He was a man, and he did not know for certain that he would be resurrected - although he had supreme faith that he would, of course.

It’s interesting to note that CS Lewis did not believe in an afterlife until he had been a theist - a Christian even - for some years. In his autobiography Surprised by Joy he tells the story of meeting an old Irish priest, “dirty, gabbling, tragic” who had lost his faith but was obsessed with finding proof of an afterlife. Lewis was so disgusted by this spectacle that he refused to believe in any form of personal immortality for many years afterwards.

And yet in The Problem of Pain Lewis says this:

Essentially he is saying that pretty much everyone comes to God not simply because He is God, but because they have some need that God fulfils.

All of which says to me that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with coming to faith initially because of our fear of death. And as Steve and Dave point out, there is so much more to why we believe, so much more we learn once we have begun to explore a relationship with God. And yes, Steve, I now believe for so many reasons - there are so many things that don’t make sense if there is no God, and so many things that do make sense in the light of God’s presence.

So why, sometimes, am I still afraid? :slight_smile:

Love to all

Johnny


#11

Good morning Johnny,

I can’t recall ever being afraid of death. Since childhood I’ve believed in God and trusted Him with my life and death. This is not something I in any way take credit for; it’s just the way God has wired me and influenced me throughout my life. Of course, I’ve never come close to dying that I recall; so this could be a big factor. I was also raised in a loving home and community of faith. And having personally experienced God in many different ways has filled me with trust in Him. I trust Him with my life in the present, how much more with my death and future! It is the present in which faith is tried; and it is the present in which we live. Fear is usually rooted in the future, which for us is not reality, but potentiality. May God bless you wonderfully, my brother, and fill you with faith.

your brother and friend,
Sherman


#12

Hi Sherman

Thank you for your lovely and encouraging post. (And it’s nice to hear from you, by the way, you’ve been very quiet on the forum of late :smiley: .)

I must say it is the faith of good men and women like you, and others on this forum, that sustains me in my times of doubt. I am by nature a worrier. Anxiety and mental health issues have beset my family for generations. My maternal grandfather committed suicide as a result of mental anguish, and the list of family members who have had problems in this area is so long you wouldn’t believe it (brother #1 bipolar, brother #2 OCD and depression, father severe anxiety, uncle attempted suicide with depression, paternal grandfather agoraphobic, paternal grandmother agoraphobic, it just goes on and on :frowning: ).

I’m sorry if this comes across as a ‘woe is me’ bleat. It’s not meant to be. It’s just an honest expression of where I am, in my less good moments. I’ve been ill this last week - nothing terrible, just painful sciatica - and I suppose it’s brought out the hypochondriac in me. I don’t want to be an anxious person, but I just am.

Anyway, sorry for being miserable. Thanks for reaching out, Sherman - and all my friends here. I am very, very grateful for your care and support and love.

All the best

Johnny


#13

Hi Johnny,

I was thinking about your last post and thought I’d respond. I have no real personal experience with severe anxiety or depression though it has affected some close family members (as you know) and friends. I don’t know how it feels, to be honest. I wonder, though, if it helps someone who is affected by these horrible psychological conditions to look objectively at themselves and say “Oh…I feel this way because of my disordered neurotransmitters (or synapses or whatever) and not because of these existential questions I can’t answer running through my mind.” I really have no idea if that’s even possible. I suspect that that kind of objectivity is not possible when things are at their worst. I guess my point is that “good answers” to the questions that plague you may not be especially helpful. I wish I could be more helpful, Johnny, But know that you are loved by all of us and the One who is love.

With Love,

Steve


#14

Actually, for me it’s often been helpful to say to myself, “This is happening to me because it’s just that time of month and my hormones are doing this to me. It probably has no basis in reality and in a couple of days I’ll wonder why I succumbed to this. It will go away. Soon I’ll feel differently.” What’s more, my feeling this way now is, besides being temporary, useless to accomplish anything of any benefit to me or to anyone else. As depression is pretty much a subjective state, I don’t know how my own experiences compare with yours, Johnny, and possibly – probably – you’re dealing with something much worse than I’ve ever experienced. Still, I think what Steve suggests might have at least a limited potential to help you get through some of those low spots. You HAVE to keep fighting it even though that is probably the last thing you WANT to do when you’re in the depths of despairing. You have to fight and if you fight (by whatever means works best for you), you will win with the strength of God with which He strengthens you in your inner man by the Holy Spirit.

Praying for you, Bro. I understand at least a little of what you’re going through, and I and all of us love you.

Be blessed – Cindy


#15

Hey Johnny,

I’ve feared death many times myself. It is an enemy. But the Bible tells us to love our enemies. The way I see it, is that life and death are intertwined and not separate. If I’m afraid of death then I’m afraid of life. For death is a part of life. By embracing death I embrace life and everything about it. I try to accept the fact that I have only so much time to live and that life involves pain and separation. By embracing this I embrace life itself and accept everything about it. What matters to me now is to live my days well and as fully as possible. In doing this I convert the terrified relationship to death into something active and positive that will release me from anxieties and fearful responses by embracing death.


#16

Good morning Johnny,

Yes, I haven’t taken much time to be online, just haven’t felt inspired to write anything. And thanks for sharing with me about your family. It is amazing how much of who we are, the personal challenges we face, are wired in us from birth and are forced upon us because of the environment in which we are raised. And though I don’t recall ever fearing death, I’ve been overwhelmed with fear a couple of times concerning finances.

Back when I was single I was attempting unsuccessfully to be an insurance salesman. I was broke, no money, and too proud to ask for help from my family. I had a little house with an open carport underneath it. It was in an area in FL that occasionally flooded which was the reason for it being built off the ground. After work I parked my truck underneath the house and noticed a dove sitting on the pipes underneath the house. I watched him for a moment and then went upstairs. I fixed my last mac and cheeze and hot dogs, ate, and then nealt down in front of the recliner, sat my bible on the recliner, bowed my head and began to pray and worship. After being there awhile, I heard a voice in my head say “Go down stairs and get that bird because he’s freezing.” It happened to be one of the few freezing days we had in FL, the coldest one that year, but to think that bird was still underneath my house and freezing was ludicrous. I ignored the thought and continued to try and worship and pray but the thought of that bird would not leave me. So I decided to go down stairs and prove to myself that there was no bird there so that I could get back to prayer.

Well, I went down stairs, saw no bird on the pipes, turned to turn the light off and go back upstairs and noticed the dove was sitting, huddled in the corner. I reached up to get him and he tried to fly but was so cold he just fell off his perch, banged on the floor, and was stunned, not moving. I picked him up and quickly took him upstairs. After several minutes he warmed up and was doing fine. I set him on top of a room screen I had dividing the little kitchenette from the front door. And then went back to my praying.

As I nealt again in front of the recliner, I opened the bible and started to read. It had fallen open to Mat. 6 where Jesus says,
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I read this and then I heard the Lord say, “See, I sent you to take care of that little bird; and I love that little bird. How much more can I not send the angels of glory to meet your every need!”

Wow, was I blessed and at peace. I didn’t realize how much I was worried until the burden was lifted. I was so at peace I just went to bed.

The next morning I drove to work and was about to run out of gas as I drove into the parking lot. I got the phones and started calling people, trying to sell some insurance. One of my co-workers, a young lady stopped by and asked how I was doing. I replied I was fine. But she said, “Sherman, I know how hard it is to get started in this buisness, and I know what your faith says, but how are you really doing?” I thanked her for her concern but assured her I was doing fine. I didn’t tell her I didn’t know how I was going to get home, but I didn’t need anything right at that moment. She said ok and walked out the door. A couple of minutes later, as I was on the phone in an intense conversation with a client, she came back in and dropped an envelope of my table, turned and walked back out the door. I finished my phone call, picked up the envelope, looked inside, and there was $20.

I immediately jumped up and went to give it back to her, thinking to myself “I take money from a woman!!!” As I reached for the door knob I heard the Lord say, “Stop, wait a minute.” I paused and listened and He said, “I sent her to bless you because there are some things I want to do in her life and in her family and that opens the door for me to do so. So recieve!” I said “ok”, turned and went back to my calling. I saw her later that day and thanked her for the gift.

So, God not only met my financial need, but He also increased my faith, and most importantly He dealt with my pride. It was a pretty cool day!

“Faith comes by hearing the word of God.”

May the Lord bless you my friend and fill you with righteousness, wholeness, love, and joy - the kingdom of God!

Blessings,
Sherman


#17

Hello again everybody

Your thoughts and prayers are hugely appreciated. I know a lot of my melancholia, depression, angst - call it what you will - is just my genetic inheritance. Wish I’d had the genetic inheritance to be the next Ian Botham (English cricketing hero), but I guess I’m stuck with the one I’ve got. I know many, many people have far worse thorns in their flesh.

Cole, thanks for sharing your own struggles. Glad you’re now feeling so much more positive. You’re right, the Bible does characterise death as an enemy - the last enemy that will be finally overcome for us all on the last day. I’ve never thought about trying to ‘love’ death - it’s a slightly weird notion; indeed, it’s something the Monster says in Bride of Frankenstein, one of my favourite films - “I love dead … hate living”. (And incidentally, Boris Karloff, who played that part so memorably, was - despite his Slavic-sounding screen alias - as English as fish and chips and warm beer, and was a stalwart of the Hollywood cricket team.) But thanks for the encouragement.

Steve and Cindy, thanks for thinking of me. And Sherman, what can I say except wow! What an incredible testimony. We’ve been talking about the efficacy of prayer on another thread, and here’s an amazing example of God’s providential care at work. Thanks so much for telling us about it.

Love

Johnny


#18

Incidentally, I’m pretty sure Karloff’s real name was William Henry Pratt.

(My Dad’s family liked to claim him as a relative, but they definitely weren’t English. Also, they got him mixed up with Bela Lugosi. :unamused: )

I really don’t have anything helpful to contribute. My reasons for being a Christian having nothing to do with a fear of death, or even a desire for eternal life (in the common sense of that phrase – I’ve been thinking of writing a Cadre post on that soon). I fear the experience of dying, because I don’t like pain (duh), but that’s almost the reverse of a reason to be a Christian; whereas I don’t fear experiencing nothing because if I cease to exist I won’t be around to experience it. Nor do I have any fear that I’ll exist in some other hopelessly worse mode after death, since I have no reason to expect that’s true (and have never had such reason, so that isn’t a reason why I’m a Christian universalist).

My own occasional bouts of depression aren’t (probably) genetic (or not in the sense usually contributing to medical depression), but are rather relational. So if I avoid relational issues that trigger the depression, I don’t have much problem – it’s there under the surface and I have to live with it, but I can live with it. When for various reasons I trigger an eruption of it anyway, I know it’s only an emotional storm, like having a headache, and pretty much all I can do is tie a knot and hang on till it goes away. (Somewhat similar to Lewis’ acute depression upon the death of his wife, except mine is more chronic.) Part of having control over depression is making sure it contributes as little as possible to my thinking. But other people are so much more soaked in it for various reasons (genetics and/or chemical imbalances, or situations too prevalent to be put aside)) that avoiding its (hellish) contributions isn’t always feasible. That isn’t their fault, it’s just how things currently are.

I like Cole’s idea of loving our enemies in application to a fear of death, for what it’s worth. :slight_smile:


#19

Hi Jason

I know you’re a fellow fan of the great Universal horror movies, so it would be truly awesome of you were related to the great man. He grew up in Enfield in north London, which is where I was born. My grandmother claimed some tenuous acquaintance with Karloff’s sisters, but sadly she’s been dead a few years now and I never got round to asking her about it. Everything I’ve read about Karloff suggests his ancestry may have been Anglo-Indian - but a few generations down the line.

Bela Lugosi, as I’m sure you know, was Hungarian. Apparently his English was so poor that he had to learn his lines phonetically when he first played Dracula for Universal.

Thanks for your thoughts on your experiences with depression. I hope you are not too severely afflicted, or too often. It is a horrible curse, this ‘black dog’ as Churchill referred to it.

I like Cole’s idea too, I’m just struggling to get my head around it a bit :slight_smile: . And while I’ve quoted Karloff’s monster once already, I certainly don’t agree with his sign-off line in Bride - “we belong dead”!

Cheers

Johnny


#20

I could definitely believe he had Indian (subcontinent) ancestry not too far back: his bone structure and something about his eyes (even when not in makeup).

Yep, Lugosi = Hungarian, but I reckon he learned the lines phonetically for the stage play first, since that’s how he got involved with the movie. (In effect they were adapting the stage play where Lugosi had starred. Thus his huge beef with Karloff: Lugosi was an international star already, he didn’t want to play the monster in Frankenstein etc. Then Karloff knocked it out of the park and Lugosi was stuck trying to catch up for the rest of his life. He did get to play the monster eventually though! – in a quite ingenious way, too, as he had originated the character of Igor, and Igor got his brain transferred into the monster in the last solo Frankenstein movie. So it made perfect sense for Lugosi to play the monster in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, but apparently they thought audiences would be confused at hearing Igor’s voice and manners coming through the monster so they wouldn’t let him talk, though he dubbed over the final lines of dialogue during the prior movie.)

As for depression, I find talking geeky things over with fellow fans helps a lot. So maybe I’ve managed to contribute a little after all. :slight_smile: