Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
My daughter began to cry. We had said the prayer hundreds of times before, but this time the words hit home. “But daddy, I don’t want to die,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
What would you say to your daughter at that moment? At that point in her life, my daughter had limited experience dealing with death. She had been to a couple of funerals. She heard about death in her Sunday School lessons at church. Though we try to shield our children from violence and adult topics on TV, she knew what death looked like.
That night, however, for the first time in her young life, my daughter faced her own mortality. For the first time in her life, she realized she was going to die.
So we talked. I told her how all of us one day are going to die. That didn’t help. Suddenly the slow stream of tears became a roaring river. “Daddy, I don’t want you and mommy to die!”
Few people want to die. Whether you want to or not, though, you are going to die. Death is a part of this life. Unless Jesus comes first, you will attend many funerals in your life, the last of which will be your own.
“The wages of sin is death,” the Apostle Paul reminds us and he’s not just talking about the day we breathe our last. The reason many people don’t want to die is because they know they haven’t lived up to what God expects. They know they deserve the eternal death of hell. They are scared of what comes after the moment they close their eyes in death.
Thankfully, Paul didn’t end that verse with death. “The wages of sin is death,” he said, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus suffered the punishment of all our dumb and dirty deeds with his death on the cross. He died our death. Then he destroyed death by coming back to life on the third day.
His words of comfort to a mourning Martha also comfort us. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).
For us who believe, death is simply the door to heaven. One day we will close our eyes in death and open them to life in heaven. There we will bask in God’s presence. There we will be together with all our loved ones who died in Christ. There we will never attend another funeral again.
On that night four years ago, I sat on my daughter’s bed holding her as she cried. We talked about the pain of death and the sorrow of missing our loved ones, but then we talked about heaven. I reminded her how we would be together forever in heaven because of Jesus. I told her that death wasn’t a bad thing because heaven is so much better than this world. The tears slowed and her breathing steadied. Soon she fell asleep.
Whether you are six years old or sixty years old, death can be scary subject. God’s promises of forgiveness and heaven, however, allow us close our eyes and rest in peace. I find great comfort in knowing that my daughter can now say with confidence: “If I should die before I wake, I know the Lord my soul will take.”