Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a bit in one of his old comedy specials about fear. It goes something like this: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
I think about this often because I am getting older, and the reality of death seems more real. My parents have gone on ahead. Many older family members have passed away. And increasingly, those who were my peers have gone on to the eternal reward.
I think about it more now. Not in a morbid way, but because I know it is coming. Though I am relatively healthy, I can feel in my bones. I do not heal as fast as I once did. Endurance is not what it once was. And those once slight aches and pains rendered from pickup games of basketball games in the driveway with my sons are now more par for the course, expected. As I think about facing death, I wonder, How will I face it? What if the pain I am feeling is serious, and we have to sit in front of the doctor and hear the news of my coming death? I suppose everyone thinks about these things at some point, and I have no way of predicting what to expect. But I do know how I’d like to face it, and the band Switchfoot sums it up in their song, “Where I Belong”:
And on that day I die
I want to hold my head up high
I want to tell you that I tried
To live it like a song
And when I reach the other side
I want to look You in the eye
And know that I’ve arrived
In a world where I belong
When I read these chapters from Jeremiah, my attention is on the prophet’s sadness and frustration about what is coming. He defends himself, as most of us would, and then he asks: “Why has my pain become unending, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (Jeremiah 15:18).
All this is painful for Jeremiah, and the people of Judah, in a way that is hard for us to understand. We are a fairly mobile generation of people. Living elsewhere seems exotic, and sometimes I dream of living in the shadow of the Alps or in a small English village. But for God’s people at the time, those who were children of the promise, losing their land to pagans was like death.
True, it was a death they deserved, but what is also true is how merciful God is. He tells Jeremiah (and later His people), “I will return them to their land that I gave to their ancestors” (Jeremiah 16:15). His revelation enables them to face this “death,” because ultimately, they know they will be returned to the land in which they belong.
How do we face death? We know what is really real. We set our minds and hearts on the one, true God. Through His life, death, and resurrection, we follow Him into a promise far greater than the land of Judah. We know we will journey not just into “heaven” but into the new heaven and earth, a new path altogether. We will step into a world where we belong.
Written by Matt Redmond