There are, truly, many varieties of death—from the vocational, to the situational, to the spiritual, and, finally, there is the physical form. The ultimate expression of faith is how we meet any of these deaths, and what we are to do with the consequences (barring, obviously, physical death—a death we deal with regarding consequences here, before it comes; i.e. Where do we plan to spend eternity?).
Death, as more fully defined as the end of something, and not simply the consummation of one physical life, is the only broad thing that can really threaten us—if we let it:
“We must then remain at peace, not listening to the voice of self-love mourning over our approaching death, but detach ourselves from life, offering it in sacrifice to God, and confidently abandon ourselves to him.”
~François Fénelon (1651-1715)
We are stuck, constrained as we may be, in these bodily lives, with our pains and limitations, notwithstanding the mental, emotional and spiritual constraints on our beings.
We are constrained not only within our bodies, and within our lives, but within life itself—a life with severe limitations and eternal constraints such as grappling with eventual death, dealing with isolation, being perplexed about meaning in life, and wrangling for many types of freedom.
None of these four concerns we can do much about: we will die; we will feel isolated; meaning in life will very often escape us; and we will not achieve any form of ultimate freedom here, on this earth. Life is held at a great tension. It promises so much, and it is full of potential, but the longer we live the more acutely we realise these four concerns are inevitabilities. We seem to have little control.
Getting Beyond The Constraints Of Existence
Life, frankly, has to be more than existence; more important than death, isolation, meaning, and freedom. The fact that we are here for but a short time—in comparison to eternity—should stand as its own evidence. There is more to life than this life, and there is more to life than quality within this life.
It may be easy to say, but faith is the only redeemable feature helping us regarding all forms of death—all situations where things end, and we mourn or face irreconcilable uncertainty (the fear of physical death for what might be on the other side).
Existence will hem us in if we let it.
Faith is the only thing that gets beyond the troubling worries of existence, taking us on a higher plane where nothing can harm us. In Jesus’ words, “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33b)
Worldly fear—the existential concern we all struggle with—has only one effective combatant: faith. Against every consequence of death (grief, pain, loss, change, etc) faith is the only answer.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.