“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 (ESV)
Losing someone you love can cut into your heart so viciously that it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It’s what I call deep grief.
It strains against everything you’ve ever believed. So much so, you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday could possibly stand up under the weight of this enormous sadness today.
This is part of what makes talking about death so difficult. The mere mention of death and dying can stir up a tremendous amount of unresolved grief.
I remember standing at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses draped everywhere. My heart stunned and shattered. There are still certain dates on the calendar that can trigger a flood of questions and pain surrounding the tragic loss of my baby sister. I imagine you have days like that, too.
But it’s not just grief that makes it hard. There can also be a lot of fear. Fear of other loved ones dying. Fear of our own death. Fear of what the process of dying might be like for us.
It can all feel so overwhelming and paralyzing.
How thankful I am that Scripture holds powerful truths we can remember when the fear of dying tries to keep us from truly living. We can feel afraid … but we don’t have to live afraid.
We are taught early on as Christians that “… the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, ESV) and that Jesus came to pay that price for us. Hebrews 2:17 specifically says He came “… to make propitiation for the sins of the people …” (ESV). The definition of the Greek word used here for “propitiation,” hilaskomai, means both “to make atonement” and “to show mercy.”
I love how we see the mercy of Jesus on display in Hebrews 2:14-15: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (ESV).
These words feel so very personal.
What grace and kindness, that Jesus would come to free us both from the power of death and the fear of it.
Donald Guthrie states in his commentary on Hebrews that it seems “paradoxical that Christ used death as a means of destroying the maliciousness of death.” But because death had become a reality for us as a result of sin, only the offering of Jesus’ sinless life could reverse this curse. (Romans 5:12-17)
Through His death, Jesus defeated death for us. And His resurrected body allows us to now declare, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, ESV).
This doesn’t mean our hearts won’t ever experience deep grief or feel the pain of loss this side of eternity. Even if you stripped a lethally poisonous scorpion of its venom, its sting would still hurt. But the scorpion’s strike would no longer hold the power to end your life. This is what Jesus has done. He has removed the fatality of death’s sting. He has given us the victory. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, death isn’t the end. It’s another beginning. Death is but a passageway at God’s designated time for us to finally escape this broken world full of imperfections and be welcomed to the home we’ve been longing for our entire lives. (Revelation 21:4)
I know how incredibly hard all this can be. But let’s hold on to the sweet knowledge that Jesus has already gone before us. We don’t have to be afraid.
And if you’re struggling with the piercing pain of deep grief right now? I’m so sorry, sweet friend.
Even when we know without a doubt that someday we will see our loved one again, the reality of deep grief is that it takes time. It takes prayer. It takes wading through an ocean of tears, only to discover one day that the sun is still shining.
Give yourself some grace, and keep clinging to the knowledge that God is near and every one of His promises is true.
Father God, death feels like one of the very worst things that can happen. And yet Your Word tenderly reminds us that it is only by our physical death that we can be resurrected in perfect union with You and receive our heavenly body. Thank You that Jesus willingly experienced death so that we can have eternal life. And thank You for meeting us in our questions and tears with Your kind presence and the hope of Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Re-printed from https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2021/07/15/finding-freedom-from-the-fear-of-death.