The Fear of Death and the Promise of Shalom

March 20th, 2020

Fear is in the air – and it is a particular kind of fear.

Amidst the daily readjustments, the working from home, the scurry for loo paper and pasta, the calls to relatives, and the deep concern for our livelihoods, the underlying fear that chills the nation is a fear for our very lives. Our delusions of invulnerability have been shattered.

For the first time since the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over the UK in the 60s, millions of us are worried about dying, or worried about someone else dying. Suddenly, the question that door-knocking Christian evangelists and Jehovah’s Witnesses used to ask, ‘if you were to die tonight, where would you go?’ has a fresh pertinence.

In reality, we ourselves may be in need of reassurance.  

Death has been firmly off the evangelistic and teaching agenda for some while. Yes, we have all heard sermons on death at funerals, but I suspect that on such occasions many of us are too busy grieving to fully take in the glorious truths of the future we have in Christ. Physical death has a sting – it is an enemy. Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus, but Jesus also raises him to life – a foretaste of the day when he will raise all who are his to eternal life in a transformed body.

Of course, there are many ways we can serve our neighbours and co-workers – offering practical help, sharing supplies, calling – but one of the most powerful is to be a non-anxious, non-fearful presence, and to seek ways to share how our peace flows from our assurance of eternal life in Christ.

Out of love, Christ gave his life that we might live. And it is that perfect love that drives out fear (1 John 4:18), and empowers us to take risks for others. In dangerous times, army chaplains tell me, people are much more open to offers of prayer, much more open to phrases like, ‘bless you’, or ‘praying for you’. Workplace groups testify to the same reality: co-workers in trouble are quicker to ask for prayer – if they know it’s on offer. 

This day, I am praying, as David did, that the Lord would be your shield (Psalm 18:2), your very present help in this time of trouble, and a fountain of hope and shalom to others.

Originally posted at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity website and reposted he by permission of the author.

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels