I am going to die.
Not soon. At least I hope not. But, regardless of when, I can say with confidence that someday, I will die. And you will do.
Is it weird to read that? It’s difficult to write it. I am a product of a culture that tries to gloss over the harsh reality of death. We keep it behind the peaceful facades of funeral homes and underneath flowering daffodils of cemeteries. Death is kept away from the goings on of our regular life so that we only have to face it for a brief time when, inevitably, the pain and grief strikes close to home.
We prefer to live as if life will go on forever. If I’m honest with myself, that’s what I do most of the time. We keep ourselves entertained and medicated and wealthy and comfortable and busy so that we never have to face some of life’s most difficult questions.
Why am I here? What will happen when I die? What is the purpose of life?
These questions are not easy. They take wrestling and discomfort, which is why we prefer to ignore them. But if we don’t pause to face them, we may get to the end of our life filled with more regret than rejoicing.
On the surface, the message of Psalm 49 seems morbid. Basically, it is this: don’t be jealous of those who are wealthy. Everyone dies.
Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. – Psalm 49:16-17
Though it may seem fatalistic, I think this Psalm forces us towards those meaning-of-life questions. What things do I get jealous about? And in the end, do they really matter?
I get jealous of material wealth and distracted by temporary pleasures more often than I would like to admit. But, at the core, I know the answers that have spoken peace to my soul.
It is appropriate that the reflection on this Psalm falls during Holy Week. My answers have come through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I believe that each of us were created. Whether that creation occurred through 6-day creationism or theistic evolution or anywhere in the spectrum between those theories, is in some ways, irrelevant to the bigger point. I believe there is a Creator God who fashioned this earth and knit us together in our mother’s wombs. I believe He did so because of the immense and immeasurable love that is core to His being, a love He desired to share.
I believe that, being motivated by love, this all-powerful Creator God gave us the ability to chose whether to love Him in return. And that though this introduced the possibility of sin, the risk was worth it. Without choice, there would have been no possibility of the pure exchange of love.
I believe that humans, since the beginning of time, have been choosing poorly. We have failed to trust in the Love that created us, and sought meaning and purpose in all sorts of other places. And these sins have been like a poison that has seeped into the functioning of the entire earth. There are not just individual wrongs, there are systemic sins that have brought unimaginable hurt and pain to God’s beloved creations.
I believe that a loving God could not sit idly by while His world and His loves descended into chaos and darkness. So, He sent a rescuer: His Son. And when His Son came, we rejected Him. We thought surely God does not look like a Man who heals the sick, shares food with the poor, and eats dinner with the prostitutes. And so we hung Jesus on a cross as punishment for His blasphemy.
I believe what humans intended for evil, God intended for good. All of our mistakes left us with debt that we could not afford to pay, and Jesus’ death covered it all. The consequence could not simply be forgiven: it had to be undone. Jesus’ sacrificial act of love became the fertile ground in which a new creation could begin.
I believe Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over death and evil. He proved that we could trust all He said to be true: He really was God and He really did have the power to save us. That through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven. we can be saved not only from death, but from the aimless wandering of life. Through Jesus, we are a new creation with purpose and hope, called to share His love with the world.
This is the Gospel. I believe it is true. And I believe it changes everything.
One of my favorite songs at this time of year is "Christ is Risen" by Matt Maher. I love this video depiction of it. Maybe watch and listen and take some time to reflect on the Gospel today?
Let's chat in the comments. Do you avoid thinking about death? How have you wrestled with these questions?
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.