In Lightning Ridge I once had a serious conversation with a bloke who was adamant he would be living to over 400 years old. He looked pretty worn out and he was only around 60 years old at that time. But before I smile to myself too much apparently scientists also claim to have discovered aspects of DNA that might determine our longevity.
I have also heard of a bloke who was in his eighties, who wanted to be buried in a stainless steel sealed coffin, lest if in the future, discoveries were made that could reverse death, then he would be in there with a fighting second chance!
It doesn’t surprise me at all that humankind has a real desire to stave off the ravages of ageing in order to live as long as possible and perhaps even find immortality. I suspect the reasons are partly to do with our fear of the unknown, partly a realisation that life can be full of joys and partly because, even if we don’t realise or acknowledge it God has, as the Scripture says, ‘put eternity into our hearts’.
Though it’s good to live in a society where through a combination of good nourishment, world class health care, healthy environment and advancing medical research (all fruits of our God given scientific research and discovery) we do well to be reminded that we will never be able to reverse death. The same God who grants to us life, nourishment, improvements in health care and our daily breath (remembering that there is but only one breath between life and death) has imposed death upon us all as a gracious judgement and reminder of the seriousness of our rebellion against and indifference toward Him. Generous because He would remind us of our need for repentance and His forgiveness.
Health is a wonderful blessing but it can become an awful curse to us if it keeps us from recognising our need for pardon. On the other hand, sickness can be a means of great blessing if it causes us to take stock and turn back to God for pardon and peace. The Psalmist was a realist who wrote, ‘it was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees’ (Psalm 119:71). For the same reason, Ecclesiastes says, ‘It is better to go to a house of mourning than a feast’. Don’t get me wrong: feasts and life are good, indeed God-given gifts, but if enjoyed and lived without God, of no use in sobering us up to reality. ‘One out of one people dies. Death is the ultimate statistic,’ said George Bernard Shaw and God would have us face it, remember why it is so (our sin) and gladly embrace His way of pardon and eternal life while there is still time. Here is the one sure cure for death.
Poet Andrew Lansdown has captured this so well:
To be dignified when facing death is mainly a matter of pride.
What matters most is to trust the One who was crucified.
When I face the grave Jesus will not deplore me if I’m not brave.
After all, it was hardly a strong man He came to save.