Much is being said and much will continue to be said about the tragic slaughter that took place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas yesterday morning. Terrifying accounts of what happened in that bloodbath will surface, commentators will all have their say, and politicians will weigh in. I am beyond convinced that anything I say about the situation will be covered by someone else in a much more articulate and effective manner.
But I’m burdened to say this much to anyone who takes the time to read these words: it could have been you. It could have been you with your small children climbing over the church pews and sharing in fellowship with your best friends right as those doors flew open and a man in tactical gear began unloading his rifle. Not that we need to be reminded, but not a single one of those victims yesterday had any expectation when they pulled into their church parking lot that they had just moments left to live.
The same can be said of the concertgoers in Vegas last month, or the bike riders in New York City last week. They didn’t know they were living out their final seconds here on Earth until it happened. And we don’t know but what we aren’t doing the same right now.
Nothing is guaranteed in this life except death. Think about that. We spend so much time and so much energy preparing, planning, and providing for future events that we have no assurance will ever come. We plan for our weddings, but we don’t know that our fiancé will actually show up to the ceremony. We plan for our retirement, but we don’t know that we’ll ever live to see it. We plan for our careers, but we don’t know that anybody is actually going to hire us.
Yet the one thing we are guaranteed – that we will die – is something we avoid planning for, preparing for, or even thinking about. We contemplate it at moments like this because it becomes real to us. But in a few days, we’ll be consumed with what is happening on this side of the grave again, and our thoughts about death will be pushed away until the next tragedy unfolds. But given that we could be involved the next time it unfolds, that seems to be a tragically and needlessly risky way to live.
My humble suggestion is that this time, rather than using this unspeakable horror to spur our deliberations about gun control, concealed carry, security systems, armed guards, and politics, let’s try – just this time – to let it spur our thinking about death.
I think that thinking about death is as natural as death itself. I think we are wired to think about death. And I think we’re wired that way because the One who did the wiring wants us to think about death.
No, I’m not calling God dark or morose. He is everything the opposite of those things. He is life (John 14:6) – true life, vibrant life, pulsating life. And He knows what awaits us on the other side of these vaporous few years (James 4:14) is eternally more significant than the temporal things that consume far too much of our thinking here on this side of the grave.
We should be thinking about death and preparing for it far more than our weddings, what movies we’re going to see, the careers we’re going to have, or the retirement we want to enjoy. We should be obsessing about the preparations needed before death in comparison to the preparations needed before parties, picnics, and promotions.
Not because we are macabre. But because we wisely recognize what God has told us – the entirety of our existence on earth is merely the beginning of our life. Only a fool then would fail to think about what happens when the beginning ends.
It ended for 27 precious souls yesterday. It could end for you today. Are you ready?