Preparing for Our Dying Hour

Death is not something we typically like to talk about, especially our own. Many things in this life are uncertain, but one thing we know for sure - every tick of the clock brings us one moment closer to that day when we will take our last breath and go to be with the Lord. Some of us are closer to that day that others; in our 20’s we tend to feel invincible, and it feels like we have all the time in the world. I’m 46 - kind of right in the middle - but already it feels as though time is slipping away in the blink of an eye and I find myself wishing more and more there were a way to push a “pause” button to slow things down.

One of my best friends is a senior saint who is facing a terminal cancer diagnosis. Over the past 2 years we have talked a lot about life, death, suffering, and our relationship with Jesus. We both have realized our feelings and reactions to the heartache and loss in this life at times do not match up well with the faith we claim to profess. Why, when we’ve supposedly spent our entire lives preparing for the day we go to meet the Lord, is letting go of this life such a hard thing to do?

It’s a good question - so how exactly do we prepare for our dying hour? Randy Alcorn spent some time reflecting on that question recently, and it led him to the words of Anglican bishop J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), who wrote about “preparing for death by living well.” Ryle begins his discussion with this powerful introduction:

The day may come when after a long fight with disease, we shall feel that medicine can do no more, and that nothing remains but to die. Friends will be standing by, unable to help us. Hearing, eyesight, even the power of praying, will be fast failing us. The world and its shadows will be melting beneath our feet. Eternity, with its realities, will be looming large before our minds.

He then asks some very important questions. Where will we find support in our last hours? What will enable us to experience the truth of Psalm 23:4 where we “fear no evil?” The answer - Jesus. “Nothing, nothing can do it but close communion with Christ. Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith—Christ putting His right arm under our heads—Christ felt to be sitting by our side—Christ can alone give us the complete victory in the last struggle.

That’s the nuts and bolts of it all; the rest of Ryle’s words are worth reading (you can check them out on Randy’s blog here). I don’t know about you, but I want to be ready on that day. Papa Ten Boom once told little Corrie Ten Boom that when we are ready to die, our heavenly Father provides what we need at that moment, just like buying a ticket right before boarding a train. The closer we are to Jesus, the more prepared we’ll be, because ultimately he is the one thing we long for most in this life.

I have to be honest - the thought of death and dying has always scared me (and still does to this day). I can only think of one way to face this fear - more and more of Jesus. I heard the song “Give me Jesus” by Fernando Ortega yesterday, and I had to stop and just let the words of the last verse soak in to my anxious soul:

And when I come to die

Oh, and when I come to die

And when I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus

You can have all this world

You can have all this world

You can have all this world

But give me Jesus

You can have all this world - but give me Jesus. THAT is how we prepare for our dying hour.