If you are a Christian, then why are you afraid to die? I have met so many people in my lifetime that were so afraid of dying. When I asked them what they were afraid of the reply given most often was because they were afraid that the process of dying would be painful. They acknowledge that being with Jesus in Heaven was not something they feared, it was getting there that they struggle with.
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:1-6, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
This is probably the most quoted passage in scripture for those who are in the process of dying or as a comfort to the ones left behind. I remember memorizing this in Vacation Bible School many years ago. Perhaps you also memorized this passage of scripture. Is it comforting to you? Do you believe what it says in this passage? Let’s break it down and see what is really said.
A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
We can see that King David wrote this psalm as he did many of the psalms. He knew what it was like to be a shepherd because he spent many years tending his Father’s sheep so this is a subject he is familiar with. He says that God is his shepherd and as one of God’s children daily, monthly, yearly, and a lifetime of provision is complete to the point that David wants nothing more.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
God has given a quiet and peaceful place to rest or live for David. But many of the other psalms tell of the chaos that David was constantly fleeing from. Yet in this psalm David says that God has provided all things, soft grass to rest on and to also eat. God also provided good water to drink. It is a safe place to rest from the weariness of life. David’s other psalms also speak of the protection given to him by God so I can see the correlation here between chaos of troubling times and a quiet place to rest. David says that God restores him and guides him to do what is right not because David is such a great King but because God is glorified through David’s leading of the Jewish people.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
This is where many people get tripped up and become fearful of the future and process of dying. David was constantly in threat of being killed before he ruled and during his rule as King. He knew the fear that comes from such threats and his other psalms reflect this but David also knew that fear is not of God. Fear comes from a feeling that God isn’t big enough to handle our situation. I think this is why David describes his fear as a valley of the shadow of death because when we are in those low times in life we have a hard time seeing the glory of God which is our light. David learned to overcome his fear with the light of God’s truth that all things are under God’s control and submission to God’s will is how he continued to live. Indeed we need not fear because we know God is leading us and the discipline we undergo as Christians from God is proof that we belong to God. This becomes a comfort to us because we see God working through disciplining us just as we disciplined our earthly children for them to learn a better way so God disciplines us. God’s staff is also a comfort because we know that it is used to keep us from harm, to pull us back from danger.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
God protected David from many enemies and David was able to live at peace with them. Even King Saul came to a place of peace with David and acknowledged that David was going to be a better King than he was capable of being, (1 Samuel 24 & 26). All of David’s enemies eventually were aware of God’s protection for David. God anointed David with oil which is a reference to God’s favor upon David’s life. God grants favor to us as well and our enemies stand down, to use a military term. Our enemies back off from harming us not because we are so fierce but because God makes them back off from us and we live in peace with them. Like David our cup of favor from God overflows with good things.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I love this last sentence because it reminds me that God’s way brings goodness to me. There is a reward of goodness in living the righteous path and no matter where our life twists and turns God will keep us from stumbling and from making bad decisions if we submit and obey Him. And the final reward is to live in God’s house forever! I often wonder what my room will look like! I can’t wait to go and find out. In time, when it is my time to die and leave this dysfunctional body of clay behind I will not be afraid because goodness follows me even to death.
Now that we have clearer understandings of this Psalm are you still afraid of the process of dying? If you are then I ask you to think about all the favor God is bestowing upon your life right now. Do you believe that His favor is going to stop while you are in the process of dying? I don’t think favor stops. If you are this fearful of death then might I suggest that you pray about your fear and allow God to help you give that fear a proper death so that you are no longer held in fear’s sway.
So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:7-11, (NASB).
If Jesus is your shepherd, if you are a follower of Christ, then listen to His words in John. Jesus will keep you from harm just as He promises in this parable. The sheep don’t hear the thieves and robbers that bang on the door because the shepherd takes care of battling them for the sheep. Christ laid down His life for you and your death is under His watchful eye so why fear it?
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:12-20, (NASB).
The Apostle Paul sums up his life as being content in financially good times and not so good times. He says that God gives him the strength to deal with all circumstances. He trusted God for everything, he trusted his shepherd Jesus Christ to meet every need and notice that he believed God would supply all of your needs as well. I don’t believe that Paul was afraid of dying, do you? If God helped you to be born, then why wouldn’t God help you to die?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you. Proverbs 9:10-11, (NASB).
Follow the path of the wise and fear only God and not death. Remember Jesus overcame the evil involved with death so you will also if you just believe that Jesus will guide you through that shadowy valley of the process from life, death, and into eternal life. If you are not a Christian, then you have much to fear and I can’t help you except to say you have heard the Good News that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and has overcome death, believe and receive!