Thursday, October 05, 2006

Death - Curse or Blessing?

In the movie Tuck Everlasting, a family of four drinks from a veritable Fountain of Youth unknowingly, and they find that they have become immune to death and disease. The main plot of Tuck Everlasting takes place decades after the Tucks first drink from the spring, and even the youngest is now over 100 years old, although still perpetually 17. Winnie, a 15-year-old girl confined by her strict Victorian life, runs away from home and stumbles upon the Tucks, who live deep in the woods near her house. As she spends time with the Tucks, she eventually discovers the long-kept secret of their immortality. Not surprisingly, she also desires the immortality they possess, but as the story unfolds she realizes that immortality is more of a curse than a blessing to the Tucks. Particularly memorable is a conversation she has with Angus Tuck, the patriarch of the family:

Look around you, it's life. The flowers, and trees, and frogs, it's all part of the wheel. It's always changing. It's always growing. Like you, Winnie, your life is never the same. You were once a child, now you are about to become a woman. One day you'll grow up. You'll do something important. You'll have children maybe, and then one day you'll go out. Just like the flame of a candle. You'll make way for new life as a certainty. It's the natural way of things. And then, there's us. What we Tucks have, you can't call it living. We just are. We're like rocks stuck at the side of the stream. . . . There's one thing I've learned about people: many people will do anything, anything not to die. And they'll do anything to keep from living their life. Do you want to stay stuck as you are right now, forever?
How does this contrast with the Bible's view of eternal life? Throughout scripture, especially the New Testament, eternal life is seen as a reward. Just one example:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Is Tuck Everlasting, therefore, directly opposing scripture in its view of death and immortality? I don't think so. In fact, I think Tuck Everlasting fits very well with the scriptural view of death and immortality. Let me explain.

When Adam and Eve died spiritually, the creation was also corrupted, as sin, suffering, and physical death entered the world. The whole creation is now groaning under the curse of sin and death. I would submit, though, that spiritual death was the primary curse to Adam and Eve, and that physical death was at least partially an act of mercy by God. Once could consider the Tucks' spring (which flowed from a tree) to be a picture of the tree of life. Just as the cherubim guarded the tree of life that Adam and Eve would not live forever in this sin-cursed world, so the Tucks guarded their spring, that others would not drink of it and meet their fate. The curse of immortality that the Tucks had was not eternal life, but eternal life in a fallen world.

Think about it. Adam and Eve had lived in a perfect world without sin or suffering, so living there forever, in close communion with God, would have been a literal paradise. Once they were corrupted by sin and subject to suffering, though, the notion of a physical death and an end to physical suffering was a blessing in disguise. They did not have to live in a state of suffering and sinfulness forever! Since they had been promised a seed (Jesus Christ!) that would crush the serpent's head, they had the sure hope of deliverance after death.

So is death a curse or a blessing? I would say a little of both. The spiritual death that each human is conceived with is a curse. The corruption of the creation is a curse, a punishment for sin. Is physical death a curse? It depends on your standing before God.

Are you justified in the Lord's sight and clothed with Christ's righteousness? Then for you, death is a blessing. When you die you will leave this sinful world and more importantly your sinful nature, and you will be made perfect and placed in Christ's presence. For you, you will taste pleasures forevermore, as you sit at Christ's right hand. Precious in the Lord's sight is the death of His saints.

But perhaps you are not clothed with Christ's righteousness. Perhaps you are trusting in your own good works to earn a place in heaven, or perhaps you think heaven and hell are fairytales. If you have not placed your trust in Christ for eternal life, then I must tell you that for you, death is a curse. As painful as life is here on earth, no circumstance can compare with the agony of eternal judgment. Heaven and hell are both very real, and no one but the righteous can stand before the presence of God. All others are eternally separated from Him, to eternal punishment.

But there is hope. God is a just God and must punish the sins of the unrighteous, but He is also a merciful God. He sent His only Son to die for all those who would believe on Him for eternal life. Jesus took upon Himself the guilt and punishment of the wicked, and bore the wrath of God. Do you see your need of a Savior? Do you recognize that you are utterly corrupt and unable to cleanse yourself of your sins? Do you rest on Christ's work on the cross as sufficient to cover even the worst of your sins?

Turn to Christ, and He will clothe you in His righteousness. The curse of death can instead become a blessing.

13 comments:

Adrian C. Keister said...

Fantastic post you have here!!

Naturally, death isn't a beautiful thing, but it is good periodically to do that most un-Puddleglum thing and look on the bright side (the real bright side). I don't think death is our friend, but for the Christian it holds no power over us, and we should not be afraid of it. Perfect love casts out fear.

In Christ.

une_fille_d'Ève said...

Good post, Sister Dear. :-)

Maria said...

Very intriguing, thank you for showing me death in a new light. I am encouraged when I remember that the Lord will not call me home until my work here is done, and when death comes, it will be at the right time.

zan said...

Oh, that was a "wicked" good post (oops, sorry Ashley). ; )

Seriously, I was blessed by it. I have seen plenty of people die and I can tell you it is NOT beautiful, but it is necessary. I have seen people fight hard at death and others welcome it. Some I knew were Christians, but some I cannot make that judgement 100%. Most people who die in hospitals are in drug induced commas, so who knows what went on between them and their Creator.

I never thought of God being merciful in bringing our physical bodies to an end because of spiritual death. Very good analysis, Susan.

What I do not understand are the people who are around death (like doctors, nurses, etc...), and refuse to a trust in Christ. That boggles me.

"Tuck Everlasting" was a great movie. I have heard the book was different, but have never read it.

Congrats on your one year anniversary! Didn't get to say that before. My husband and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary yesterday (10-4-06).

I have enjoyed your blog immensely. Keep up the great blogging!

Hannah, What does your username mean? Just curious.

Ashley said...

I can answer that, Zan! It means "A Daughter of Eve". (I know because I asked her about it once!) It's a wicked awesome username. ;-)

Susan, this post reminded me of an article I read this week about the Amish, and how they see death as a celebration of entering into heaven (or something to that effect). I liked your point about eternal life in a fallen world being a curse, while eternal life in Heaven is a blessing.

John Dekker said...

Fancy that! I just saw the film for the first time last week...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing such a reflective, inspirational post. I greatly appreciated the thoughts you shared and how you placed death in it's proper biblical context.

As a believer in Christ and his atoning work on the Cross, I have always seen death in a positive light. As adrian said, it holds no power over us and we should not fear it. To be honest I don't fear death itself but I do sometimes ponder the way in which I will die. Will it be fast and painless or full of prolonged agony and suffering? I certainly hope for the former. However, I recogize that no matter what way I die, God is in control and he will be along side me through it all. I don't have to be concerned about even a difficult death because God will strengthen me and comfort me through it.

I had a patient die at the beginning of this week. I wasn't actually taking care of him when he passed but I did for two days last week. His wife was taking it really hard. She would barely leave his side and kept saying that she couldn't lose him. I talked to the nurse who was with them toward the end and she said the wife had finally come to grips with the reality that he was dying. I was very relieved to hear that. I did what I could, but somehow I feel it was not enough. I wasn't as patient or comforting as I could have been. It's so challenging to be a supportive nurse to a dying patient and family when you have so many other reposnsibilities to oversee and are even doing the work of two people for a number of patients. I think the wife was a believer and possibly the husband. They both attended a church but you never know. I called a chaplain to come spend time with the wife and husband after she was given the grim news that his chances of living much longer were very slim. I can learn a lot from reflecting on it all. I wish I had some words that were more encouraging and I wish I had taken the opportunity to sing a hymn or something while I was giving him a bath each day. I think that would have been comforting to her. I guess there is always the next family that I can try to be better about my comforting in times of grief.

Zan, you are right about lots of people in hospitals dying in drug-induced comas. This man did not have any pain meds or sedatives. He also denied being in any pain although I would ask him frequently whenever I went in the room. He was in a coma of sorts from renal failure. He couldn't respond to questions the last few days or so.

Sorry for this being so long and morbid. But I guess the subject is already pretty morbid at that.

It was an excellent post Susan, and one I think you should add to your sidebar for "best posts." Thanks for sharing with all of us. You encouraged me through it and I was really needing it today.

~L from Renewed Day by Day

zan said...

L,

I have been there. It is so hard to know what to say to hospice patients and their families. Death is hidden from the world and families don't know how to deal with it. I really think, if possible, that people should expose their children to death. We took care of my grandma when she was dying and she died in my sister's bedroom. I was 14. People need to realize that this life is not the end all. This world is temporary. Maybe if more people realize this (especially the youth of America) the more they will think about eternity. Atleast you would think they would. I guess they could just live like the Romans.

Susan said...

Maria (welcome, by the way!), I like your point about the Lord calling us home at just the right time. Each of our days were written in His book before one of them came to be. Wow!

Happy wedding anniversary, Zan!

Ashley, can you believe that bit of Amish trivia was unfamiliar to me? (don't faint) That's interesting.

Thank you for sharing what you've been going through recently with death exposures, L. That is hard to know how to be a comfort. I'm so glad this post was a comfort to you. The Lord must have laid this topic on my heart at just the right time :).

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post, Susan, and congrats on your anniversary! I am very happy that you have a blog, and that we could meet :). I am sure you will be interested in my lastest post, Susan :). I only wish you could meet him . . .

On the topic of death, I find it very sad that in Australia many people assume that they are going to heaven and seem to have no idea about hell! There is a common belief that we are all going to meet the old man in the sky some day in a happy way!

I believe that in past generations, where the mortality rate of children was much higher and people usually had experienced at least one death of a close family member, people would have thought more about death. This is reflected in the very sober verses many children put on their cross stitch samplers. Now we think those topics are too opressive for children, but then they realised the reality of the necessity of preparing even very young children for eternity.

I find that it is an amazing blessing to have so much to look forward to when we die. When I have severe pain, it really is a comfort.

zan said...

I knew about the Amish stuff too. Stayed with a Beechie Amish family once.

Oh, Sherrin, I am so happy for you! A couple of weeks ago I scanned your blog and prayed that you would meet a nice Christian man (oh, that sounds so grandmotherly). I read your blog, but I have difficulty posting comments, don't know why.

Just fyi: I pray that Susan and my other single blog friend ladies will meet like minded young men to marry (call me Emma, actually, I only pray, it's not like I am messing with people). I even pray for Hannah. ; )

Oh, don't worry about posting a mushy post. Mushy is good.

une_fille_d'Ève said...

Zan, you make me smile. :-) But I guess you understand my current mindset more than most since you were there yourself, so... pray if you think it best!

Susan said...

!!!! *smiles all 'round* I'm so happy for you, Sherrin :). Your news made my day!

All of us single girls appreciate your earnest entreaties on our behalf, Zan :).