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What is it that Christians fear most about the process and results of dying? Here are six common fears and a very brief biblical remedy for each of them.
1. Fear of dying a painful death (the process of death).
“I’m not so much afraid of dying as I am of the final leg of the journey.”
God promises never to leave or forsake us, not to tempt us beyond what we are able to handle by His grace, and to provide the grace we need to endure the trials and temptations He allows to come our way. This does not mean that death isn’t hard or difficult, but God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that as Christians, our temptations (and the trials associated with them) are and will be limited by God both in scope and duration.
2. Fear of no longer enjoying worldly pleasures.
“I’m afraid that heaven is going to be kind of boring. I mean, sitting around on clouds and worshiping the Lord will be enjoyable, I’m sure, but if that’s all there is to it, I think will get kind of old.”
Since we will be fitted for heaven on arrival, even if all we did in heaven was worship God, heaven would be enjoyable. But we will be doing more than that. The Bible suggests that we will sing, eat, work, rule, judge, and learn. Moreover, the new earth will resemble the present earth as our new glorified bodies will resemble our earthly ones. Did Adam and Eve enjoy life in the garden? Imagine the garden of Eden on steroids. Whatever is necessary for our happiness and enjoyment will be awaiting us in heaven.
3. Fear of living for eternity.
“Some people get a claustrophobic feeling when they think too long about heaven. I know it will be wonderful beyond my wildest dreams, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to be trapped in some kind of eternal time warp—it’s scary to think about living forever.”
It is impossible for finite man to fully understand infinity. It can indeed be scary to be unable to comprehend “endlessness.” But heaven is a place of unimaginable happiness. There will be no claustrophobia in heaven because claustrophobia is a fear. The thought that God would allow His children to be troubled with even a hint of the misery associated with self-oriented fear is out of step with everything the Bible says about heaven. There simply will be none of this kind of fear in heaven, for when Christ appears, we shall be like Him—sinless (1 John 3:2).
4. Fear of having to face all our past sins.
“Look, I know I’m forgiven and my sins will not be held against me, but frankly the thought of having to give an account of my sins kind of takes away the excitement of all the good I know that comes after the judgment.”
This can actually be a good fear if it motivates us toward sanctification. “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). On the other hand, it is a fearful thing to think about standing in the presence of a thrice-holy God to watch a play-by-play not only of our sinful actions but also of our thoughts and motives. Perhaps the best way to elevate (or at least tranquilize) this fear is to immediately thank God for the fact that as believers in Christ we will not have to face His eternal wrath and that He will wipe away all tears from our eyes. (Even during the final judgment, we will have the assurance that because of Christ, we will not be condemned.)
5. Fear of our loved ones’ not making it after we are gone.
“My family is so dependent on me for so many things. They look to me for material provision, for wisdom and direction, for emotional support, for meeting daily needs.”
It is important for us to think ahead about this and to prepare for it as best we can. Teaching our loved ones to look to Christ for their spiritual and temporal needs is also part of our responsibility as Christians. Once we have done this (and even if we haven’t), we can relieve our anxiety by committing our loved ones to God and praying that He will do what is best for them for His glory.
6. Fear of being disqualified for rewards.
“I’ve worked so hard for so many years that the thought that I would lose all or even some of what I’ve worked for is chilling.”
Paul talks about being disqualified (after having preached to others; 1 Cor. 9:27). He tells Timothy to consider that if he doesn’t play by the rules, he might not be rewarded for all his hard labor (2 Tim. 2:5). John talks about striving to obtain a full reward, implying that some might lose some of what they have worked for (2 John 8).
I’m not sure that I want to have this fear removed. I think about it almost every day. But if you find yourself obsessing over this concern without any knowledge of any wrongdoing, chances are good that you are worrying yourself unnecessarily and you should learn how to handle your anxiety biblically. My guess is that as you learn how to address worry in general, this worry in particular (and pretty much all the others mentioned above) will diminish.