Hi Mr. Hamilton,
Is there a way to become unafraid of death? I have been terrified of dying since I was very young and sometimes it consumes my thoughts. I fear the concept of being put in a box in the ground unable to move, think, feel or talk to anyone for who knows how many years. I enjoy existing and existentially the idea of death is frightening. I know that I'll technically be unaware of it all, but I am still afraid. I am a Christian, so I know that's where faith comes in but I still struggle. I fear an early death even more because I'm in a happy marriage and have a young child. Do you have any advice? Can God actually calm these fears I have? Are we alone when we die? Do angels help our transition? I'm afraid I will die with extreme terror.
Fear is an instinctive emotion. It arises from a need to preserve ourselves; thus, it exists to keep us protected. Many things may cause someone to fear: Fears of job loss, serious illness, or difficult problems may each cause us to tremble. We don’t fear when we don’t perceive danger, but what we might think is dangerous may not actually cause us harm. We might tremble before getting on a rollercoaster, but when we exit we will exclaim that it was fun!
Most fears revolve around what we don't know. You don't know what a snake might do, so you are afraid to get close to it. But fears get out of hand when we don’t know exactly what we fear because we don’t know what we need to take action against. "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1). The problem is that there are no limits to our imaginations. We can always imagine a problem that doesn't exist. Often it is the future which makes us afraid because there is so little of the future that we truly know (Proverbs 27:1).
When the disciples feared a storm Jesus rebuked them and then the storm. "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" (Matthew 8:26). Faith is the trust you have in something. If you trust that the rollercoaster won't fall apart, then you won't fear to ride it.
David was imprisoned by the Philistines and fear began to creep into him. "Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me. When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?" (Psalms 56:1-4). God was David's place of safety. "Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings" (Psalms 61:1-4).
Everyone who has ever lived has died, barring Enoch and Elijah. It is a simple fact of life. The evidence is all around you that people are not trapped in a grave after their death. In fact, they are not even there. C.S. Lewis once observed, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." Who you are is not your physical body, you are a spirit who lives in a temporary tent called a body. There is no one in the ground. They are all in the realm of the dead awaiting the day of Judgment.
"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord -- for we walk by faith, not by sight -- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:1-8).
It is a bit scary to think about transferring from the body we are familiar with to one we have not experienced, but we have God to rely on -- the God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and who always keeps His promises (Hebrews 6:17-19). "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15).
It really comes down to your trust in God and His care. Enjoy the life that God has blessed you with. Do the best that you can with the people God has entrusted in your care. And when it is time for you to leave this world, be confident that God will care for those you temporarily leave behind, just as He cared for you.