The Perspective of Death

Life is a strange and wonderful thing. But most things that occupy us moment from moment day to day in the grand scheme of things aren’t crucifiedthings that really matter; I mean they do, but when confronted with the real reality of our own mortality so many of the things that seem so pressing to us in the moment simply melt away and the real things that matter rise to the fore. I experienced this when I was diagnosed with my typically (and statistically) incurable cancer (DSRCT) back in late 2009.

I was just thinking about all of this tonight; life (as James says) is indeed but a vapor. If this is the case, if the world as we know it, as Paul says, is passing away then how we ought to live as Peter ponders? When I thought I was going to die (from my cancer) everything changed. I went into a strange world unbeknownst to me prior; it was a world full of anxiety (so overwhelmingly so that it went beyond a feeling of anxiety … if that makes sense), fear (I didn’t want to die, especially not the death of the type of cancer I had), darkness (there was major spiritual warfare that happened, an oppression that filled my atmosphere, at points). But, of course, there was much ministry and grace from God in Christ by the Holy Spirit that was always present; he ministered in miraculous ways (one of those ways being realized now … I am alive and still cancer free after 5 years).

But I wasn’t really intending on writing about my cancer, even if it is relevant to what I want to say, and it is. I was just thinking though about perspective. We get so lost in our daily circumstances, and in the drama of everyday life (whether that be at work, school, play, etc.), and what is really important (Jesus) get’s lost; the great hope we have as Christians gets squashed by our most immediate pursuits (which usually involves some sort of self-promotion). And yet there will be that moment for you and I alike where all of the drama of our daily lives (the stuff that seems so important, so pressing right now) will be confronted with what really matters; life itself, and life itself in Christ.

When you think you are most probably going to die (like I did) everything narrows. The hopes that motivated and drove you (all in the future) get cut off, and your future becomes limited to one day at a time. When you lose horizontal hope in the things and pursuits of this world and this life, the future becomes a vertical affair; you begin to look to the heavens for your future, for your hope. You begin to cast your vision on God in Christ, and trust him each day to be your future for that day; when you have the sentence of death upon you you no longer (as a Christian) trust in yourself but in the One you know raises the dead.

I’ve been getting overwhelmed by my most immediate circumstances, and I sense that the enemy has been trying to rob me of the real reality and hope that I have in Jesus Christ. Perspective from the center of God’s life in Christ is so important to participate and live in and from; it is hard to overstate this! I need to be less like Israel (remember them in Exodus etc.), and more like Jesus (as I live from him). I need to remember the perspective that came from my cancer diagnosis, or at least that that diagnosis did as it caused me to throw myself on God’s mercy. I don’t want to forget; I don’t want to let other people (like at work or elsewhere) impose their un-belief or un-perspective upon me (and this is a constant battle: to live in a world that is structured by unbelief and self-worship). We are all going to have that day of perspective, let’s live that way.

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4 Responses to The Perspective of Death

  1. dtkleven says:

    “When you lose horizontal hope in the things and pursuits of this world and this life, the future becomes a vertical affair; you begin to look to the heavens for your future, for your hope. ”

    This is really great stuff, Bobby.

    I’ve been thinking about humility, wilderness, Jesus, and Israel quite a bit lately. It seems like the wilderness is intended by God to produce just the thing you’ve described – “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the YHWH.”

    God intends for the wilderness to be a means of great great blessing for us, but the dying of self, the cutting off, the humbling, the chastening, all involves real pain, so we wish to get out of it by any means we can, forgetting that God wants us to through it, experiencing new depths of his “vertical” provision for our souls.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. They are one of the means God is using to keep me oriented vertically.

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  2. Eric says:

    Bobby, if you ever decide to write a book about this time in your life, I’ll be the first in line to buy it. I agree with dtkleven regarding that quote he referenced – it is really great stuff! I shared this post with my spiritual director. Eric

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  3. Bobby Grow says:

    @DTKLEVEN,

    Thanks! 🙂 And yes, the wilderness, Exodus, etc and history of Israel (history of salvation as it were) is so prominent and so concrete of a reality, so prefigural of what is finally taken up for us in Christ’s vicarious humanity that it is hard to over-look as we pay attention to the reintepretation of the OT in light of the NT and Jesus as the reality. But yes, we are placed in the wilderness by the Lord for various purifying experiences, I think.

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  4. Bobby Grow says:

    @Eric,

    Thank you, brother! I would like to write a book about this time of my life, but I need to find the time to sit down and really think out how I might try to do that and structure it.

    Praise the Lord!

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