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Death to Fear!

January 31, 2013

When I was about 9 years old I contracted TB meningitis. The TB I’d had for about a year but it hadn’t been diagnosed, I was just getting out of breadth too easily. Then I had a TB test ahead of my vaccination, and the test was very positive. But by then it had spread and I had terrible headaches. The family doctor was called and luckily he was old enough to have treated TB. He recognised it and I guessed about the meningitis. I was rushed to hospital and was in a coma that night!

All rather dramatic. When I came out of the coma I was so ill they didn’t think that I would live, but I didn’t know that. They decided to send me home for Christmas, I thought I was going home because I was getting better, everyone else thought I was going home to die. Obviously, the doctors got it wrong. I’ve always been awkward like that!

But one thing that seems to have come out of that time is an absence of a fear of death: Well that fear is mostly not there. I don’t want to die but I have no great fear of death. I don’t know why, I’m certainly not braver or more godly than other people, but for some reason the fear of death is not so great in me.

I’m not looking forward to the process but the end result somehow doesn’t haunt me. It’s like the joke – “I want to die peacefully doing what I enjoy, just like my uncle: Not screaming in terror like his passengers!”

Perhaps, an unconscious part of me still remembers glimpsing past this life. I don’t really know. But I do know that it is unusual. This week I seem to have spent a great deal of time arranging, visiting or taking funerals. It is a sad fact that January is a month when more people than normal die. Faced with all of this death, I have been reminded of how crippling the fear of death is. The fear of death can blight lives. It can get in the way of living – that fear can make someone half-dead, long before anyone nails down the coffin lid.

I don’t have an answer to that fear. I personally have nothing to offer someone who is dying or afraid of dying. I can’t let someone into my brain so that they can share my experiences. Neither can I encourage someone to nearly die just in the hope that it will cure their fears. It was therefore particularly encouraging to read these words from the letter to the Hebrews:

so that through death {Jesus} might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”

I don’t have to have the answer, Jesus has provided the answer already.

No one can really share in my experiences but all of us can share in Jesus’ death and in his resurrection. Through that experience it is possible to know that death has been killed and be freed from the slavery that is the fear of death. The Christian life is a journey more and more into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The further I go on that journey the further away from my fears I go. There is a hope and a confidence that is born of humble service and surrender to the will of God. This confidence is not arrogance, it is the fruit of humility, of walking humbly with my God.

I know that something of that fear of death is fading when I am able to pray honestly the words of Simeon that we know as the Nunc Dimittis, which in the form of Compline that I use goes like this:

Now, lord, you let your servant go in peace: your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people; A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” – Save me O Lord while waking and guard me while sleeping, that awake I may watch with Christ and asleep may rest in peace.

Death is real, the fear of death is real, but so is hope. God’s word has been fulfilled; Our Father has kept his promises; and so  I can find relief from my fears, even my fear of death!


  1. I think it is easy to overcome a fear of death. There has to be end to something because what is the point of a beginning. But it is harder accept the possible pain that surrounds dying and the thought of those who will miss you. The fear of these two things will prevent you from living. It’s not that you fear life per se.

    • I agree that it is the dying rather than death itself that is most frightening to me. However, for many it seems to be the unknown, or feared oblivion/pain that follows death that is truly frightening. Either way that fear will get in the way of living.

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