Why Are We So Reluctant To Die?

Everybody wants to go to heaven—But nobody wants to go now.” Author Unknown.

  • “God often takes those soonest whom He loves best; the time they lose on earth, is gained in heaven.” “Afflictions bring us to prayer.” “Death is terrible to the unbelieving and the impenitent. Death may seize a believer, but it cannot hold him in its power.”––Matthew Henry; 1662-1714.
  • “Teach me to live, that I may dread the grave as little as my bed.”–Thomas Ken; (1637-1711) 1692.
  • “We picture death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save. We think of death as ending; let us rather think of life as beginning, and that more abundantly. We think of losing; let us think of gaining. We think of parting; let us think of meeting. We think of going away; let us think of arriving. And as the voice of death whispers, “You must go from earth,” let us hear the voice of Christ saying, “You are but coming to Me!”–Rev. Norman MacLeod; 1812–1872.
  • “In our first Birth we are born to die; in our second, we are born to live for ever.”–Rev. Samuel Wright, DD.,1802.
  • “Earth is not home, heaven is home. Living is not being at home, dying is going home.”–The Christian Advocate; Vol. 12; 1834.
  • “When the Christian dies, it is not the Christian, but death that dies.”–Rev. John Cumming, DD., 1854.
  • “A Christian never dies.”–Glocester Ridley, LLB; 2/10/1749. John 11:25 † John 11:26John 6:47 John 3:16
  • “Until you’re prepared to die, you’re not ready to live”—Pastor Adrian Rogers (1931-2005).

The following article appeared 185 years ago in ‘The Christian Advocate’ (vol. 12, 1834) ‘The New York Observer’:

“Why So Loth To Die?”

“I find within me a strange reluctance to die, and I perceive in others indications of a similar unwillingness. Indeed it is rare to meet with one who does not participate in this general and great aversion to dying. Now I do not wonder that some are unwilling to die. Nature revolts at death. It is not strange, therefore, that mere natural men should be averse to it. Some have nothing to die for. How can it be expected that they should be willing to die? They have nothing beyond the grave to go to. Their possessions all lie on this side of it.

They have their portion in this life—their good things here. Do you wonder they are reluctant to leave them? To such to die is loss. Death is not theirs, as it is the Christian’s; but on the other hand, they are death’s. Jesus is not precious to them. How should they be “willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord?” What Paul esteemed “far better” than life, viz. dying in order to be with Christ, has for them no charm whatever.

But that the spiritual man, the disciple and friend of Jesus, the child and heir of God, should be so strongly averse to death, deserves to be considered strange. We might indeed expect that there should remain some of the reluctance of nature to death, even in the subjects of grace, for Christianity does not destroy nature; but that this reluctance should be so strong and often so predominant—that grace should not create a desire for death, stronger than nature’s aversion to it, is what surprises us.

I am sure it ought not to be as it is. Certainly every Christian ought to be able to say with Paul, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” However averse to being “unclothed,” he should yet be willing to be “clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” Life required an exercise of patience in the saints of old, which seems to have no existence now. Job says, “all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” Then Christian submission was exercised in living. Now to be resigned to death is the desideratum. Grace had then to make its subjects willing to live. Now it has to make them willing to die.

How shall we account for this reluctance?

What if nature in us be strong, is not grace stronger? Has it subdued our sins, calmed our agitations, allayed our fears, and can it not master this one aversion? Have we made experiment of what grace can do, with the fear of death?

Is it because of the pain of dying that we shrink from it? But how know we that to die is so very painful? In half the cases of death at least, it does not appear to be so. How many sicknesses we are subject to, whose progress is attended with far more pain! How many surgical operations, which men readily submit to, are beyond all doubt productive of more suffering!

Is this world so bright and beautiful that we are loth to leave it on that account? But is not heaven fairer and brighter far? Here there is night; but there none. Here deformity alternates with beauty; but there all is loveliness—here the alloy prevails. There is no mixture—all is pure. Can it be possible that earth has charms and attractions equal to those of heaven—this earth, which the curse has lighted on, comparable in point of beauty and loveliness to that heaven where God manifests Himself, and which Jesus has gone to prepare for becoming the fit habitation and denial home of His redeemed? Is it conceivable? Even the saints who lived under a darker dispensation esteemed the heavenly a better country. Is it the separations which death makes, that render us so averse to die?

True, it separates, but it unites also. It takes us, I know, from many we love, but it takes us to as many we love. Leave we a family behind? But do we not go to one larger, more harmonious, happier? Are we parted from friends by death? And are we not joined to friends by the same? If we lose a father, do we not find a better Father; and if we leave a dear brother, do we not go to one who “is not ashamed to call us brethren?” More than half of some families have gone already to heaven. Why should we be so much more desirous of continuing with the part on earth, than of going to the portion in heaven? Do those you part from need your care and services, more than those to whom you go?

But is it not safe going, and leaving them in charge of God? Is it not He now who cares for them, and watches over them, provides for them, and defends them? And will He not do it when you are dead and gone? Ah, the parent clings to life, and looks imploringly on death, when he thinks of his loved little ones! What will become of them? he asks. What would become of them now, if they had only you to care for them? It is not your eye that keeps watch over them—nor your arm that is put underneath and round about them—nor your hand from whose opening palm their wants are supplied? It is God’s. And what He does by you now, cannot He do without you? Cannot He find other agents and instruments when you are laid aside? Does He not say of the widows and fatherless children, “Leave them to Me?” And will He not be faithful to the trust which He solicits?

Do not children desire to see the face of their father? And are not we children of God?

After so many years of daily converse and communion with Him, and after receiving so many tokens of His paternal regard, should you not be willing to go now and see Him face to face, whose unseen hand has led, sustained and supplied you hitherto? It is unnatural in us not to be willing to go to God—We readily go to those we love.

Has home no charm? What man is he, to whom it has not a charm? Who has been long absent from it and does not languish with desire to reach it? But where is home—thy Father’s house? It is not here. It is beyond the flood. Earth is not home. Heaven is home. Living is not being at home. Dying is going home. We must die to reach our Father’s house. And yet we are reluctant to die!

Do you dread the way? Do you tremble at the thought of the valley of the shadow of death? What, when you are sure of such company as that of Jesus? Will you fear with Him at your side? Do not talk of the cold arms of death. Think rather of the warm embrace of Jesus. Does He not say He will come for you? “If I go, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” Angels may minister to the saints on common occasions, but when a Christian dies, Jesus Himself attends.

But death has a sting. You mean he had one–To those who believe in Jesus, no sting of death remains.

Fear ye the consequences of dying?—Does the thought of the presence into which you are to go appall you? But you have often been into that presence in prayer—you have appeared already before God on His mercy seat, and then you have wished the veil away. Why then so unwilling that death should withdraw it? Were you not gladdened by those transient glimpses of His glory which you saw? And dread you now the full and fixed gaze of His glory? Have you not often sighed for those brighter views, and those nearer and clearer discoveries which death will afford you?

Surely it cannot be the judgment you fear. What, when you are “accepted in the beloved!” If accepted in yourself, you should not fear. How much less, when accepted in Him! If God would honour your own righteousness, had you a righteousness of your own, will He not much more honour Christ’s righteousness, now become yours? What if you cannot answer for yourself! Cannot He answer for you? But who is the Judge? Is it not Jesus, your Advocate? Will your Advocate condemn you? Are you afraid to meet your Saviour?

He that summons you to judgment is the same that said, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” Would you live always? I know you would not. But you would live longer—perhaps, you say, for the sake of being useful to others. But who knows that you may not be more useful in heaven? Who can say but your death may do more good, than your life? Besides, if God can dispense with your services, should you not be willing to have them arrested?

Do you not desire to be freed from all sin?

But know you not that only he “that is dead is freed from sin?” If you cannot be perfectly holy until you die, ought you to be so unwilling to die? Is your desire at perfect holiness sincere, while you are so averse to the condition of it? It is strange that you should be so reluctant to realize that which is “gain”—to pass into that condition which is “far better”—to come of age, and to enter upon that inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled?

Have you no desire to behold the glorified humanity of Jesus—to see that countenance that was so marred for you? When one is rescued by another from some imminent peril, he exclaims in the ardour of his gratitude, “Where is my deliverer? Let me see him.” And would you not see Him who has rescued you from the most dreadful of deaths—the Saviour that loved you and gave Himself for you?

Is not death, as well as life, enumerated among those “all things” which “are yours,” if you are Christ’s? If it were an evil—if it were not a privilege, would it be found in that catalogue?

Oh fellow Christians, let us be ashamed of this unwillingness to depart and be with Christ. Let us get rid of this aversion to death. And henceforth let us not think it so formidable a thing to “die in the Lord” and to “sleep in Jesus.” M. S.” Editor’s Note: The Christian Advocate was conducted by Ashbel Green, DD.

Psalms 90: 10; 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; (70) and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, (80) yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

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