You are going to die.
I would guess that’s probably one subject you don’t like to think about all that much. I am not a big fan myself. That’s why the Psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 39:4 can come across a little surprising at first. He actually asks God to help him know that he is going to die, how short his life, because he wants to understand how frail he really is.
How often have you prayed that?
Even though there is hardly anything more obvious than the fact that we are going to die, there is hardly anything we work harder at forgetting. To our spiritual detriment. There are reasons the Psalmist prayed this prayer and there are reasons we should ask God to help us be aware of the shortness of our own lives.
Jonathan Edwards points out a few:
1.) It will make us more serious people. We live in an age that takes trivial things seriously and treats serious things trivially. Thinking about death helps us regain perspective on what is important and what is not. It helps us stop laughing about things that we should be crying about and helps us enjoy what is actually enjoyable.
2.) It will make us more humble people. When you start feeling very important, it helps to remember that your own great grandchildren likely won’t remember your name. When you start feeling strong, it helps to remember that one day they will be taking your body and laying it in a coffin. You may think this a bit intense, but we all know it is much better to have a realistic view of yourself than a deluded one. When we go to a hospital for the mentally ill, we don’t think that the woman who imagines herself the Queen of England is in a better position than the one who doesn’t. We try instead to help her see herself as she really is and death helps us see our life for what it really is.
3.) It will make us less materialistic people. If you want to get a sense of the emptiness of possessions, you might just sit down next to a dying rich man as he gasps and struggles to breathe or watch as they lay him in his coffin and bury him in the ground or if you could, go with him as he stands before God on judgment day.
4.) It may make us more serious about holiness. I think of Isaiah as he stood before the King of Kings. Seeing God for who He is caused Isaiah to see himself for who he was and cry out, “Woe is me.” In other words, it created in this holy man an even greater desire for holiness. We too will stand before this holy God and thinking about the day we are translated into his presence should begin to stir up the same kind of desires in us that the Bible tells us were found in Isaiah.
5.) It will cause us to prepare for our own death. There is one question that matters as a man lies dying and it is not, where am I going to on vacation next month or what car do I want to buy or how much money do I have in my bank account. The question instead is, am I ready to stand before God? It is remarkable how much attention people pay to the condition of their bodies which will die and how little attention they pay to their souls which will endure forever. Death, understanding how close we are to death, should help us to think straight about what is of utmost importance.
6.) It will help us be less surprised and frightened when death comes. When someone jumps out and yells boo, it is much more frightening if you aren’t prepared for them to do that. Death is going to jump out and do more than yell boo at all of us, and while thinking and preparing beforehand won’t take away all the fear, it make help us be more ready when it does.