I am reading Tish Harrison Warren’s newest book “Prayer in the Night.” The book drills down into a nighttime prayer recited by many. The chapter that especially caught my attention is entitled “Bless the Dying.” What follows are a few passages I highlighted followed by my responses to them.
Ground zero of our human experience of vulnerability is the fact that we all will die, ourselves and everyone we love. I utterly hate this. One thing that draws me to Christianity is that we are allowed to hate death. I don’t have to act as if the darkness is any less dark than it is. I don’t have to stoically accept it as part of the circle of life. Death is an enemy.Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren
My mother-in-law is 95 years old. There is no question that she is ready to go home and be with Jesus. The rest of us in the family are not nearly as excited about that possibility as she is. We believe with certainty just as she does that eternal life for her is guaranteed. However, many who have died this past two years of COVID did not share that certain promise. We have not taken all the actions we have taken to attempt to stop the spread of the disease because death is a friend.
If we sentimentalize death and minimize its brutality, we end up, often unwittingly, belittling the hope of resurrection.Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren
It has always struck me that the early followers of Jesus were painfully aware of death. Whether from persecution or natural causes brothers and sisters in the faith constantly died. Yet, this did not discourage them. Instead, they hung on to their confidence in eternal life regardless of the circumstances. I do not think we begin to understand the reality that Romans 8:31-39 speaks to.
It allows us to know that the day to seek God, the day to repair relationships, the day to help others and bless the world around us is today—because it may be our last. Meditating on our mortality teaches us to live in light of the larger story of which we are a part, to locate our small joys or tragedies in the scope of eternity.Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren
The strength to attack life whatever comes does not come from assuming I am not going to die. Real strength comes from the certainty that I am going to die. Death is never a question of if, but always of when. Since I do not know when I will die, I should be driven to make the most of every moment.
What About Me?
Procrastination flows from thinking I am not going to die today or even soon. When my confidence in tomorrow exceeds my recognition of the certainty of my death anything difficult or uncomfortable can wait.
I abhor conflict. I have always been challenged in leadership roles by the necessity of confronting conflict of all types. Every time I left the house anticipating a difficult conversation my wife would encourage me by saying, “You’re not going to die.” This encouraged me and since I am still here proved to be true based on my experience. Warren’s comments have caused me to rethink this and wonder if it would have been better to have heard, “You’re going to die someday anyway. This needs to be done so why not do it today and do it with confidence.”
I do not know if this book would have helped me after my second heart event and surgical procedure to install multiple stents in my heart. Depression overwhelmed me as I confronted my mortality. Instead of attacking life to make the most of every day I crawled in an emotional hole and did nothing. I certainly saw death as an enemy and chose to give up rather than fight. I am learning to fight, and I have been very encouraged by this book to keep it up.
More About the Book
For more about the book check out these articles from Christianity Today: