There is nothing like a hospital to provide a reality check. Most large, urban hospitals have hundreds of patients most of whom have family and friends who love and care about them. Many of the concerned are spouses, parents, and children. When you visit someone in the hospital, you will walk past a number of these concerned people. How often do you look them in the eye and see their faces? If you will, you will see many emotions betrayed. While their hearts are concealed, their faces, in so many instances, show sorrow, fear, stress, fatigue, anxiety, and despair. A good number of them look to be carrying figurative, elephant-sized burdens that weigh down on them.
For much of life, a person can put off thinking about mortality. For one thing, we have so much to do in our daily lives–work, care for family, a bevy of sundry activities. For another, we do not have to waste mental energy on such an enormous topic when we and our loved ones are healthy. Besides, at other times, we can afford to pursue our interests and desires. But when we face the prospect of death it seems that all else in life fades with muted colors into the background of life. Front and center in vivid color, life and the fragility of it stares us in the face. It is then that we may ponder, perhaps more intently than at any other time, about “what’s next.” Those confronting illness and death may be more prone to consider that beyond mortality lays immortality. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has also set eternity in their heart.” Does that mean God, who created us, put within us a knowledge and conviction about eternity at our most innate level. As we face crises and dark moments, we attempt to gaze through the dark mystery of death and see such imposing figures as Accountability, Judgment, and Eternity standing before us. This must be a disturbing moment for those unprepared to cross that dim divide. Yet, God intended and desires for us to come to such moments with blessed assurance. It is not unqualified assurance, open to those who live any old way they please. But, it is an assurance that alters one’s gaze into that mysterious abyss of death. Death is stinging and victorious over many, but not the Christian. God through Christ allows us to stare into that treacherous chasm with unbroken calm. “Thanks be to God” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54-57)!