I know all the Scriptural answers to this question. I understand the theological reason for death and dying; I know about how the Fall of man which resulted from Adam and Eve’s sin and how from it death was born. I know mankind was born immortal and our disobedience caused us this seemingly unending cycle of life and death. I have heard how death will be swallowed in life once Jesus returns to put things right again.
It still doesn’t make it any easier.
If there’s one thing I’ve never been able to get over, it’s death. It’s criminal. It’s absolutely wrong and unreasonable. It’s furiously maddening and unjust. There aren’t enough synonyms to adequately describe it.
I grew up in the eighties and nineties and one of my favorite movies was the Neverending Story. It was magical, mystical, and captivating. In the epic fantasy, a young boy named Bastian skips school and hides in its attic while reading a mysterious book stolen from the local bookstore. In the story, a young man named Atreyu is tasked with saving the world of Fantasia from an evil force called “The Nothing” which is speedily spreading throughout the land.
During his quest, Atreyu and his beloved horse Artax are forced to cross the Swamps of Sadness. They carefully, slowly step into the gooey swamp. From his saddle, Atreyu anxiously guides Artax through the slimy muck. One step after another, they warily trek through the sludge. Until the horse gets stuck. Atreyu fretfully jumps off his saddle and furiously attempts to pull Artax out of the mud, but he doesn’t budge. In a horrendous, frighteningly sad scene, we watch as the magnificent Artax slowly sinks into the ravenous swamp. Then, he’s gone.
I’ll never forget that picture. I cried for what seemed like hours. My young mind couldn’t comprehend how this could happen. Why would God allow it?
In the following years and after witnessing countless heartaches which accompany every life, I’ve asked God countless times, “Why?” Sometimes He gives me small insights, but often He doesn’t. I’ve heard the happiest people are the ones who quit asking the question. That may be true, but I’m unsure I can ever get to that point. Will I finally quit questioning injustice and life’s cruelty? I don’t know.
For now, accepting death is violently unnatural. And because I can’t, or won’t, accept it, I am counting on God to prove His Word true. I am absolutely banking on every single Scripture which promises life after death. Which declares this isn’t the end. Which proclaims we will all be made new again in the glorious New World. His Word has boldly decreed there is an end to injustice and it approaches stealthily. I’m trusting in those promises. I have to.
Because this can’t be it. The endless sadness must, at some point, come to an end.
One day all things will be made new. Those bent from arthritis will stand tall. Those buried in the ground will walk. Those with minds long gone will be sharp and focused. Those warped from the oppressive force of time will be fresh and young. It will happen, but sometimes it seems as though it can’t happen soon enough.
At the end of the Neverending Story, as Bastian flies through the clouds on his flying puppy dog, he witnesses a newly resurrected world. In this world, he spots Atreyu riding on a young, stealthy Artax. Resurrected. Free from the clutches of the death swamp. As a child, this was the best scene. My tears of sadness were replaced with ecstatic tears of joy. This is precisely what I imagine will happen once I enter the New Jerusalem; when death has been swallowed by life and our joy is eternal.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:4