It’s a morbid rendition of a Top Ten list, an accounting of the world’s greatest fears: public speaking, death, spiders, darkness, heights, social situations, flying, open spaces, thunder, and confined spaces. Michael Klepper got it right in the title of his book I’d Rather Die Than Give a Speech. Public speaking edged out dying as the world’s greatest phobia…but only slightly.
Why is dying one of the worst fears? Some people fear the unknown and they want to know what happens the moment after their last breath. Judgment? Nothing? Bliss? Sleep? People fear the unknown, and they see too many unknowns about death.
Death scares many people because they think it leads to the end of existence. Most living things share a common desire to keep living. What will the rest of the world do when they are gone? Will others even remember them? Maybe it strokes their egos to think of their self-worth among others and their lasting impact on the world.
Could the fear of death be drawn from how it feels? Do people feel pain or comfort at the moment of death? Is death an unfeeling experience? Maybe that’s part of Thanatophobia (the fear of dying).
Some apprehension about dying seems natural, but maybe a better understanding of death can help alleviate fear. Is it too cliché to say that death is part of living? God originally created man to live forever. He planted mankind in Eden where he would have access to the Tree of Life. Adam introduced death through sin, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). While dying was not God’s original plan, now it is the gateway to eternity. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Death is an essential steppingstone.
Death is not a cessation of existence either. In fact, human spirits are eternal. Death frees the spirit from the shackles of decaying flesh for it to reunited with a resurrection body.
Some still fear death wondering if it will be painful or comfortable. What is the best way to go? A heart attack in your sleep? Car accident? Quick? Slow? Speculations about how death feels cause many people to pick their preferred method of dying.
Christians should not fear the uncertainties of dying because God reveals life after death. They should not fear losing their existence at death because their spirit is eternal. They should not fear the feeling of death, because heaven will surely be worth it all. Instead of fearing death, Christians need to embrace it with the dignity of Jesus and the fervor of Paul.
Death brings gain. Paul said it himself, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi. 1:21). Christians will gain freedom, hope, and heaven, but only if live for Christ now.
Death brings victory—victory over sin and its power. Paul asked death, “Where is your victory? Where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). He knew the answer, “God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). When the devil crucified Jesus, he thought he won. But God stepped in and gave the victory to Christ and his followers (Heb. 2:14).
Death brings Jesus. Paul welcomed death saying, “I am hard pressed between two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phi. 1:23). Paul shows an imitable anticipation for heaven and the opportunity to be united with the Savior.
Today, the brevity of life, the dangers of living, the calamities of nature, and the evils of man offer a constant threat to life. This bleak picture fills many people with fear, but that is not the Christian’s way. Death’s cold, dark embrace only lasts for a moment, fading quickly into God’s warmth and radiance.