• Bill Wichterman

Thinking About My Death

I think about my death every day. I’m not a morbid person, but thinking about my mortality helps me frame my life and live closer to the way I want to live it.


I hate to be lied to, and I don’t want to lie myself. I would rather face the truth, even if it’s ugly.


But to think about my death isn’t ugly. Well, yes, the process of dying is ugly, and I’d prefer to avoid that if I could, but I probably won’t. But my faith is that my death is but the passage to a life without suffering or sin or sadness or decline.


Is this just wishful thinking? Maybe, but I actually believe it – or mostly believe it. I allow for the fact that I may be wrong. Instead of a glorious life perhaps what awaits me is non-existence – in which case, I will experience nothing at all and the word “I” will be meaningless – or the horrors of hell if Islam is the true religion or some other religion I’ve never even heard of.


Doubts aside, I look forward to my afterlife (which is a misnomer if the life that comes after this one is much, much better). I relish the thought of not having to contend with my own sin. I’m not who I wish I were or who I am supposed to be. Too often, I don’t do the things I want to do, and I do the things I don’t want to do. Why? Because I’m fundamentally broken, and I was born that way. We’re all broken, in my worldview. That doesn’t mean we’re terrible people. I like myself, and I like most other people (but don’t get me started on the guy who cuts in line in front of me). But it does mean that even the best of us does bad things.


In my worldview, I have to battle this darkness inside me all the time. It’s a constant struggle to think right thoughts and not think wrong thoughts. That alone is enough to exhaust me. Then add to that not doing wrong things and doing right things – things that are costly and dangerous for the sake of truth – and you have the recipe for weariness.


I pine to be finished. For decades, there’s been a cry from the depths of my soul, “can I be done yet?” Life is for me one gigantic test, and it never stops. There is for me no vacation from being required to do the right thing. It’s my duty. There are no cheat days afforded to me. The problem is, I do cheat, and then I’m sorry I did and I have to turn and make it right.


You might be thinking I just need a good prescription of anti-depressants or a day sailing on the Bay. But this is the way I think I’m supposed to live. Now you might be able to see why I look forward to my death. Thinking about it every day isn’t a burden but an inspiration. It gives me strength to remember that all of this will one day be over, and I can begin living without the relentless current rushing in the opposite direction from where I naturally want to go.


Do I hate living? Not usually. Perhaps it’s due to my genes, but my mood generally alternates between happy and very happy. I love being with my wife and kids. I love my friends. I love sailing. I love my work. I love chocolate chip cookies. I love racquetball. And I love God.


Oh yeah, God. He’s the main reason I think about my death. I can’t wait to be with Him. I have long planned to fall at His feet in worship and gratitude when I see him face to face. And I hope to hear him say the warm, smiling words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” That’s the centerpiece of my life. It’s why I swim against the current and look forward to my death. It’s why I eschew lying to myself. It’s why I live.


I don’t for one minute think that my efforts at self-improvement are what will allow me to live in God’s presence after I die. He’s so completely “other” and good and perfect that all of my strivings are never enough to merit what I long for. I’ve put all of my chips on one number: that the perfect and sinless Jesus – who is God made flesh -- paid my ransom on the cross. Blood for blood, He bought me. My striving is one big “thank-you” to God -- not a striving to be made right, but gratitude for having been made right.


So I’ll keep thinking about my death every day. It’s like looking forward to summer vacation, but one that will never end. I’m ready and eager to go when my time comes. And when it does, don’t be sad for me (you’re welcome to miss me or be sad for yourself), because I will, by God’s grace alone, be where I’ve longed to be since I gave my life to God at 17.


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