Wise Practices: How Do You Talk About Death?

Wise Practices: How Do You Talk About Death?

Our current letter series “Wise Practices” aims to share practical knowledge and wisdom to help us grow as doers of the word. Each letter will share applied methods and answer a ‘how.’ These practices are not perfect or comprehensive. They are personal testimonies; shared knowledge and wisdom gained through pursuit and service that helped facilitate growth in our lives. We pray they help you grow as well.

On the ledge of my office window sits a skull planter serving as a memento mori of mine, a reminder of the inevitability of death. This sobering reality puts my vapor of a life into perspective. Whether it’s coming to terms with my own personal mortality or helping others process the loss of a loved one, death is often met with the silence of internal contemplation. The addition of cultural cliches and willful ignorance in regards to the topic of death only add to the conversational complexity.

How do you talk about death?

The Bible has much to say about death that is helpful in framing the conversation. Consider the following: Death is a curse and consequence of the Fall (Genesis 2-3). Death is the wage for rejection of God (Romans 6:23). Death is both physical and spiritual (Ephesians 2). We could go further to discuss the enemy of death (1 Corinthians 15:26), the place of death (Revelation 20:7-10), and the defeat of death (1 Corinthians 15). While death is a dark reality, I find the words of Paul particularly helpful in defining how the Jesus follower speaks of death:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Philippians 1:21-23

Death is gain.

I toil to think of death as gain, much more, desire it. In a very real sense, death is loss. I fear the void of losing loved ones. I ponder the death that I will face and what is to come. Paul’s own wrestling with death helps to inform the way I talk about death as he boldly speaks with a profound hope-filled desire that largely contrasts that of the secular world, and admittedly at times, even my own. He does not fear death, nor does he frame death in terms of loss, rather, death is the entrance to eternity with Christ who is our life (John 17:3). Thus, the death of the Jesus follower is gain.

Gain in death is a paradox of the Christian life (Mark 8:34-37). My death has been gain. You see, my life in Christ began with death, by trusting in a Savior who died. I trust that if I have been united with Him in a death like His, I shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5). Therefore, my death will be gain and in His presence will be fullness of joy (Psalm 16).

When talking about death, talk about gaining Christ.

Justin Ray

Elder/Student Pastor

Justin and his wife Bailey have been at Tri-Cities since 2022.