O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
–1 Corinthians 15:55
The Bible does not gloss over the reality of death. Paul acknowledged the democracy of death–the fact that everybody dies–but he also talked about the distress of death.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” There is a sting, an agony, to death. As a character in a Woody Allen play said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
The truth is, many people are fearful of death. We are fearful of what may await us, or we are fearful of the process itself. But as Christians, we know God will walk with us through that experience of death. The psalmist said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (23:4).
One of my favorite descriptions of death for a Christian comes from John Bunyan’s allegory, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Two travelers named Hopeful and Christian are on their way to the Celestial City. But first they must cross a river: the river of death. They ask the two men who are escorting them if the river is deep, and the men reply, “You shall find it deeper or shallower, as you believe in the king.” As Christian enters the water, he is afraid he will sink, but Hopeful encourages his friend: “Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.” If we have trusted in Christ as our Savior, we have a firm foundation even in death. But there is nevertheless an agony, whether it is physical or emotional, for those who die.
There is also an agony for those who are left behind. You may know this agony well. Rabbi Harold Kushner, who lost a fourteen-year-old son to illness, later wrote, “In the twelve years since his death, I have not known a day in which I did not think about him, in which I did not probe the empty space his death left behind like a tongue probing a missing tooth.”
That is the sting of death. But thank God that is not the end of the story! Yes, there is a distress that death produces, but because of Christ Jesus, there will one day be a defeat of death.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “From Tragedy To Triumph” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
Woody Allen, “Death (A Play),” in “Without Feathers” (New York: Ballantine, 1986), 106; John Bunyan, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (Coventry, UK: M. Luckman, 1786), 191-92; Harold Kushner, “Who Needs God” (New York: Fireside, 2002), 117.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.