In the last post we began discussing how to talk about death with your children. In that post we laid the foundation for thinking biblically about death and dying. Our culture attempts to avoid the reality of death by emphasizing the illusion of life without Christ. In 1 Timothy 6:19 Paul encourages us to take hold of life that is truly life. By implication, this means that there is life that is really not life at all, but death masquerading as life. It is this imposture of life that our culture worships. Thus, the culture focuses not on the life to come, but exclusively on life in the fallen world. The 21st century is unlike the 19th century in this regard. The afterlife was a dominant theme in 19th century literature. The rise of existentialism in the 20th century paved the way for a post-modern culture that is captivated by life that is not truly life. This is why you must not let the culture shape your children’s view of death.
In the Bible, death is a time of sadness and grief. Additionally, for the unbeliever it is a time of fear. These perspectives are another important element of the formative instruction you must give your children to prepare them to deal with death. These perspectives move the discussion to a more intimate level than the foundational concerns we addressed in the last post.
Death is a time for sadness and grief. However, death is not hopeless for the Christian. We are to be confident of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, so our grief is tempered by the sure hope that Christ defeated death. I Corinthians 15:55-57 says:
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin
is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord
Christ has defeated death. This fact provides hope. Because of Christ, taking hold of life that is truly life is a real experience for the Christian. In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul says that while Christians will grieve, it will be different that the world’s grief over death.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. I Thessalonians 4:13
Death provides a practical, regular opportunity to speak of the things of God to your children as Deuteronomy 6 instructs us. The news is full of stories about death on many fronts. God does not want you to waste these opportunities by allowing news anchors and talk show hosts to fashion our view of death. Death and the centrality of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ must be brought together to challenge the world’s thinking about death.
The point here is that you are to talk about all of life’s situations, including death, from God’s perspective. Children identify with sadness and grief. Talking about such issues as death before they make a personal impact will not remove all hurt and grief, but it can help place life’s events in the positive construct of God’s good providential care. While nothing can fully prepare a child for the shock of an unexpected death, having a solid biblical foundation can help provide stability.
One additional thought on the impact of culture on the church’s view of death. It has become quite common to refer to a person who has died as one who has “passed.” The expression is a shortening of the phrase passed away. The question still remains – to what has he passed? If the biblical realities are fully understood, then the term passing can work. However, in the politically correct world, it would be offensive to say that someone has passed to either heaven or hell. So, if you refer to someone dying as having passed, it is important to understand that that person is passing on to one of two distinct locations – one of unspeakable joy and the other of unspeakable torment.
In the next post we will look at some passages that can bring hope in the face of death.