Some time ago, while driving, it was a rainy Brisbane night as I manoeuvre my way through the inner-city traffic towards the annual New Years’ party. Travelling briskly along Sandgate Road, I drive purposefully, with eager intent to arrive promptly for the promising food and beverage arrangement available for all party-goers.
Pushing the speed limit after a series of sharp turns, I see the car to my front come to an abrupt halt. I slam my foot onto the brake pedal, but to no avail. The vehicle screeches as I slide out at pace directly into a stampede of oncoming traffic...
I am completely and utterly flabbergasted as to how I evaded injury that night considering the state of the traffic, weather conditions, and speed of impact. A miracle is my only explanation.
However, I don’t recall this event for storytellers’ sake, after all, I am not much of a novelist. Rather, this was an event through which I learnt one of the most profound lessons of my life. It was the first time the idea of death had ever materialised in my mind, as I formed an understanding of the frailty of the human frame.
Cultural denial of death
We live in a culture that denies death. We are taught that death is something we should shy away from, forget about, and sweep under the rug. If we begin to contemplate our own mortality, as they say, we’ll drive ourselves into a state of panic, anxiety, or even depression. There is no doubt that this is often the case.
The psychological theory of ‘Terror Management’ suggests that a significant part of human behaviour is driven by fear of death. It causes a range of different reactions among individuals, from the suppression of this reality through the pursuit of a loose lifestyle, to the establishment of defence mechanisms against every possible physical threat.
The truth is that engaging these responses only makes it more difficult for us to pursue a purposeful, joyful, free, and influential life.
A Christian Worldview
The late Steve Jobs once said, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Very much consistent with the attitude of Steve Jobs, the Christian worldview proclaims the notion that death is, in fact, the very best invention of life. However, there is one caveat. A solid appreciation for death is not only profoundly important because of the tremendous perspective it provides to life, but also because every physical death is met with the incredible hope and joy of spiritual eternity.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he shall die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John chapter 11, verses 25-26)
Therefore, since we are found secure and blameless in Christ, death loses its crippling power over us. We need not fear falling into a post-mortem abyss of nothingness. This helps us to hold onto material things very loosely, and provide us with a holistic and balanced perspective of life priorities.
Start your day thanking God for a new day in which to live out his amazing plan for your life, while also acknowledging that death is near. It is only by ‘transcending’ death in this way that we see our ‘big life decisions’, in the form of relationships, careers, hobbies, and desires, fade into a shadow of what they once were. This allows them to take their rightful place as secondary elements of our existence.
This may seem like a fairly self-evident life principle. I too, have heard this message one thousand times. However, if you truly let the reality of death materialise in your mind through prayer and self-reflection, you’ll be on your way to living the liberating life which God has planned for you.
David Lean is law & accounting student, elite athlete & business owner, from Brisbane, Australia.