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Courage and Faith in the Face of Death

Updated on June 6, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise has experienced the death of loved ones in her immediate and extended family, and that has lead her to seek information about grief.

Death is merely the method by which we leave this world. It is not the end of it.
Death is merely the method by which we leave this world. It is not the end of it.

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There comes a point in our lives, when we feel that we are surrounded by death: i.e., friends and loved ones killed in accidents, loosing their lives to terminal illness, or simply dying of old age. The closer we get to our own demise, the more prevalent is the scene of death around us. Like the children of Israel, we ask, "...shall we be consumed with dying?" (KJV Numbers 17:13)

No wonder we ask where God is when we are faced with death! We hear of his punishment of the rebellious, taking the lives of those who would not follow his commandments to the letter, and giving leprosy to the disobedient. We think that surely God must not be a God of love if that is what happens to people!

Our faith is tried and tested regularly when we are faced with tragedy and especially death. We question our sense of worth, our own identity, and what we are doing in this unsafe world. We ask ourselves:

  • How can we choose life when all we see around us is death?
  • What does it take to keep going until our own last breath?
  • Why is it necessary to wait on the Lord's timing?
  • When do we know it is okay for us to die?

These and many other questions are addressed in the paragraphs below.

We are all mortal. I hope this does not come as a surprise to anyone. None of us will be on earth very long. We have a number of precious years which, in the eternal perspective, barely amount to the blink of an eye.

— Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Facing death

We will all die, there is no question about it. Some are fortunate enough that they do not have to face death before it takes them from this earth. They die quietly and quickly, with no advance notice that it is going to happen. This is the exception rather than the rule.

Most of us have wake up calls that warn us that death is on the horizon, and that we had best be prepared for it. Perhaps it is a diagnosis that threatens our own health or the death of a loved one that reminds us of our own mortality.

The warning signs may be more subtle, creeping up on us like a thief in the night, stealing away the precious moments of our lives while we are sleeping or unaware. We don't know what is happening until we realize that our bodies are changing. We don't have the energy we once did, or we recognize different responses to previously pleasurable stimuli. We go to the doctor to find out what is happening and come home with more questions than answers.

It is at times like these that death becomes a shadow over our lives, and we realize that our time here on earth is limited. We aren't sure how to deal with this information. For some, it is incentive to take out the "bucket list" and whoop it up until the "Grim Reaper" comes to call! For others, it is simply a gnawing reminder that we can't seem to come to grips with, it is just there in the back of our minds, rearing its ugly head when the circumstances are just right,

Aging and death are a natural part of our existence. When we are on the downhill slope of our lives, they are our inevitable end. It takes effort to keep them from being our focus.
Aging and death are a natural part of our existence. When we are on the downhill slope of our lives, they are our inevitable end. It takes effort to keep them from being our focus.

How can we choose life when all we see around us is death?

If we are not careful, we can become consumed with death like the children of Israel were when their friends, neighbors, and colleagues were swallowed up by the earth, burned with fire, or succumbed to the plague. They became frozen in their ability to move forward.

We, too, can fall prey to the sirens of death if we are not careful, especially when we are anticipating the death of a loved one. We want to do something to control the situation, knowing that we will soon be grieving their loss. In our efforts to avoid the pain and heartache we know are coming, we avoid spending time with our loved one, or deny them the opportunity to discuss their pending departure, only to realize later that we have done both them and ourselves a terrible disservice.

How then, can we choose life when we know that death is inevitable? Choosing life means choosing to uplift, strengthen, and bless. It means allowing ourselves to feel the pain of loss, even before it happens, by not turning off our emotions. It is okay to feel sad and cry, or laugh and joke, but most importantly, to give, even when we know that the end is nigh. It means staying on the roller coaster ride until the operator stops it's motion and we are told that it is our time to get off!

The real issue facing each of us is not Can I die? Physical death is one of life’s certainties. It occurs regularly and is evidenced by the printed obituary notices and the empty chairs at our tables.

But rather, the real issue is, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14). Will the grave seal our fate forever? Or is there a resurrection and another sphere of existence awaiting our souls?

— Carlos E. Assay

What does it take to keep going until our own last breath?

When my daughter and her husband were faced with the coma of their precious child and the long term prospect of keeping her on life support, they began to question God's timing.

They wanted to do what was right, but practicality told them that they could not keep her like this forever. The decision was made to terminate life support. The family gathered around for their good-byes and the doctor pulled the plug. Their beautiful daughter left this world with a smile on her face, and they rejoiced that they had known what was right in their hearts.

Our spirits are inseparably connected to our Father in Heaven. The only way we can know whether it is right to go forward with treatment or to terminate it, to keep holding on or to let go, is to involve him in our decision making processes. It takes courage to put our faith forward, to trust in his all-knowing power, and to do what we feel is right in our hearts.

Saying good-bye to a loved one is the hardest thing that we will ever do. We cannot take back what we have done with our lives in that moment. We cannot change the past words that were spoken in haste, or the things that we did on impulse. We can only live in that moment, relishing the fact that death is not the end, and that we will see them again.

Because our Savior was resurrected, we will be as well.
Because our Savior was resurrected, we will be as well.

Why is it necessary to wait on the Lord's timing?

One of the biggest questions we face when we think of death is the "How?" Many are afraid that death will be painful, that they will have to suffer, and that quality of life will be lost.

Modern medicine with its many miracles keeps us alive well past the life spans of previous generations. We go to great lengths to create advanced health directives for the purpose of having some control of our final days, hours, and minutes. We give our loved ones a great gift when we see that our affairs are in order before emotions get in the way of our decision making processes.

The closer we come to God, the more we grow in our understanding of the Lord's timing. Our deaths are not just about us, but about the bringing together of others who serve in our behalf. It is about sacrifice, love, and an intimate connection that can be obtained in no other way.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (KJV Isaiah 55:8). We never know when it will be our time to leave this world, thus it would behoove us to take advantage of every day, hour, and moment we have to make this world a better place. Then, when we are called home, we will stand before our Lord with clean hands, a pure heart, and peace of conscience.

Now, we do not seek death, though it is part of the merciful plan of the great Creator. Rather, we rejoice in life, and desire to live as long as we can be of service to our fellowmen. Faithful saints are a leaven of righteousness in a wicked world.

— Bruce R. McConkie

When do we know that it is okay for us to die?

Our beloved Savior was well aware of his pending departure from this world when he walked his final days on this earth. We, too, may have premonitions that it is our time to go.

We may be inspired to get our affairs in order, mend a broken relationship, or call someone we haven't seen in a while. We never know when we will say the last words that someone will hear, or when our actions may be the catalyst for another's return to the Father. Only God knows the end from the beginning. Our days are numbered only to him, and he will be there when we cross over to the other side.

When that day comes, we all hope to hear the sweet words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21) as we step into his embrace. Until then, we do our best to keep the faith, have courage, and live as he would have us to live.

© 2016 Denise W Anderson


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