Are you scared to die? If so, that’s a completely normal and understandable feeling. The fear of death is the most foundational of all universal fears for most people. It spans every culture and civilization from the beginning of time to the present.
People do many things to try to handle the inevitability of their death. They may say they’re not scared of death when, perhaps, they really are. They also may do their best to ignore its reality or go too far in the other direction and let it paralyze them with fear. Still others avoid the subject, saying it’s “too morbid” to discuss.
Regardless of how we attempt to work through these concerns, however, death will eventually come for us all. One of the most beautiful things about Christianity and the Bible is that it gives us many answers to something that, otherwise, would be a huge mystery. God lovingly tells us what to expect when we die. He also gives us ample understanding of how to prepare for death. Because the Bible is thorough in how it informs readers about the afterlife, it’s been given the acronym “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” by some.
You may be battling a terminal illness, fretting over how quickly time is slipping away or have recently lost a parent, child, grandparent or friend. God uses these scenarios and many more to remind each of us of our mortality. To gently (sometimes, not so gently) nudge us to think about our lives and any important decisions that need to be made. Hopefully, God will use this article to speak to you as well.
If you’re scared to die, take heart. God ultimately is the solution to your struggle. That isn’t said to be flippant or trivial. Nor do I claim the ability to “cure” your fear of death with one single article. Rather, we’ll explore the topic as it relates to the fear of death from a Christian perspective and provide some solid answers. But, before going any further, did you know that the fear of death can be good for you? True story! Let’s explore why that’s often the case.
Why Being Afraid of Death Can Actually Be Healthy
Many of the cultures we live in try to eradicate potentially beneficial albeit uncomfortable feelings too quickly. The fear of death is a perfect example of this—It’s a massive elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. The danger is we may try to get rid of the discomfort instead of exploring why it exists in the first place. Forget the cultural pressure to shove this one under the rug. The healthiest thing you can do is to recognize and address your fear of death.
This is the exact thing Moses prayed for in Psalm 90 when he said the following:
“So teach us to number our days,Psalm 90:12
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
In his prayer, Moses admitted to God that people’s lives are incredibly short. He said people live seventy or eighty years only if they have the strength. Moses concluded that we should make every day count. By that, He meant more than just squeezing in more work, too. He said we should consider the brevity of our lives to gain a heart of wisdom. Moses believed the greatest response to our mortality was to turn back to God, give up our sins and walk closely with Him.
Moses made such a decision years before writing this Psalm. He chose to follow after God’s eternal kingdom instead of enjoying the short-lived sin available in Pharaoh’s house. He left a life of royalty, adulation and comfort to follow after God in a desert full of grumbling people. Even so, deep down, he knew he’d made the right choice.
Are you afraid of death? If so, that’s probably better than the opposite. Death is nothing to trifle with if you haven’t turned to Jesus to save you from your sin. It would be far better to be afraid of death now than to suffer eternal regret later. God can use that fear to turn you back to Him. This is not done to harm you. Instead, it’s meant to save your soul from death and bring you into a close relationship with Him.
Fear is a normal, healthy and God-given human emotion meant to keep us safe. For instance, the fear of driving a vehicle while tired, the fear of a house fire or the fear of our child drowning causes us to take precautions. Maybe we can have someone else drive who isn’t so tired, install smoke detectors in our home or make our children wear a life vest when swimming to avoid these potentially life-threatening dangers.
In the same way, the fear of death is meant to prompt us to assess potential risks and take action. Yes, it’s important to take precautions to protect our earthly lives, as the examples just given indicate. But, only “protecting our hide” and doing nothing else is very short-sighted. This is because we can’t escape death and what we do with Jesus’ forgiveness will have an incalculable impact on what our eternity will be like. Eventually, despite our best attempts to take every precaution, it will be time to leave this earth. When that time comes for us, no amount of money or resources will be able to change that fact.
Many non-Christians downplay death and say it doesn’t matter or that you just die and that’s the end. Sadly, these messages drown out the need for precaution because each of us could enter eternity at any moment. Regardless of what some may say, death is the most significant life event someone can experience. It’s not the end of the “ballgame.” More accurately, it’s just the beginning.
As mentioned, we’re all well aware of the endless ways we protect our physical lives. But, ironically, we too often fail to protect the most valuable thing of all—our eternal souls. Yes, by all means, take physical precautions. Use your seatbelt. Eat healthily. Exercise regularly. But, while you’re doing all those good things, be sure to take the necessary steps to prepare your soul for your eternal transition.
Contrary to what many believe, the default destination upon death isn’t Heaven. Sadly, it’s an eternal state of separation from God and torment (the Lake of Fire).
That terrible place doesn’t exist because God is bad. Instead, it must exist because God is perfectly good. He has to judge sin to maintain his flawless righteousness. All the injustice of the world will one day be accounted for. The punishment will fit all the sinful deeds of each person perfectly.
That may sound great until we consider that every inhabitant of the earth commits injustice, otherwise known as sin. That includes us and those we care most about. Eternal separation is the necessary judgment given by a perfect God. But God, who’s full of compassion, sent his Son into the world to be a sin substitute so we could avoid ever going there.
Those who place their faith in Jesus for their salvation and make Christ their leader instead of themselves are saved from the penalty of eternal separation they deserve. Jesus’ perfect sin substitute covers all of their evil deeds. Because Christ’s sacrifice makes them perfect before a God of flawless goodness who must judge sin, they can enter Heaven.
This is the greatest reason the fear of death can be healthy. Despite how uncomfortable it can be, it causes us to ask the tough questions we’re tempted to ignore. We’re challenged to make peace with God through Jesus. We can then become God’s child and friend instead of his enemy. We also can passionately live for God here on earth until He takes us back to Him to dwell in our eternal home. For this reason, if your entire life was torture because of your ongoing fear of death, it would be well worth it in the end if it caused you to turn to God for salvation.
In the end, nothing else matters. Nice house or car? Nothing in comparison. Less than nothing, in fact. Let that fear of death lead you into the arms of God instead of away from Him. If you do that, you’ll never regret it!
That’s also why Solomon said it was better to go to a funeral than a party. The danger is the party (symbolizing pleasure) could cloud out the need to turn to God. It could keep you from getting right with Him.
Solomon said this out of the bitterness of his failures. Despite his wisdom, he chose pleasure above God for much of his life. He gained hundreds of wives and concubines and participated in the detestable worship of the idols of his foreign wives. The Lord divided Solomon’s kingdom as a result. Despite that, Solomon’s words remain hauntingly true. Suffering just may be what God uses to save your eternal soul. Pleasure very well could keep you from salvation because of its power to deceive and distract you if you aren’t careful.
“Better to go to the house of mourningEcclesiastes 7:2-4
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”
Why Is the Fear of Death So Strong?
One of the key reasons for this is wrapped up in what we just talked about. Death is something to fear more than anything else if we’re not ready to meet our Maker. It should scare us beyond anything else if we haven’t gotten right with God.
There are several other reasons our urge for self-preservation is so strong, too. Just like animals, we experience a fight-or-flight response when we perceive danger. If you were attacked by a wolf in the wilderness, you wouldn’t rack your brain over what the morally correct thing would be to do in that situation.
Instead, your adrenaline would take over and you’d instantaneously have to decide whether to stand your ground and fight back or try to run and escape from the situation. Biologically and instinctively, we’re all hardwired by our Creator to equate death with danger or a threat to our well-being. Animals experience the same thing.
But our fear of death goes far beyond our “animal” instincts. Regardless of what science may try to claim, we aren’t simply another animal. Science (secretly, Satan) attempts to diminish our value and accountability to God—an exceedingly dangerous way to live when we’re all one breath from eternity.
All the while, our Creator seeks to increase our value and accountability and to offer his help when we trip and fall flat on our faces. Sure, we share similar characteristics with the animals, but unlike them, we were made in the image of God. We not only have a vivid awareness of our surroundings, but we also can distinguish between right and wrong.
That ability to understand and choose between right and wrong makes us uniquely accountable to God. Animals, although badly affected by sin’s curse, operate out of pure instinct and cannot sin. We, on the other hand, can sin against God and others. In summary, understanding that death is weighty and final can motivate us to make good choices. We can be pushed to live close to God and to make decisions in light of eternity instead of simply focusing on the here and now.
Some Steps You Can Take If You’re Scared to Die
Now that we’ve discussed the nature of the fear of death, we’ll explore some specific things you can do if you’re afraid to die. None of us should take a passive approach to the reality of our eventual death. More than anything else in life, we need to be proactive and take action.
Become a Student of the Scriptures
No other resource on earth can show you how to live and die like God’s word can. Don’t let that Bible sit on your shelf, gathering dust. Otherwise, its treasures may allude to you someday when you need them the most. The scriptures remind us that God’s wisdom is far more valuable than gold. That wisdom from the Bible can lead you to eternal riches. Earthly wealth, on the other hand, will quickly be gone.
Immerse yourself in the Bible any way you can. Listen intently to your pastor’s sermon and find quality sermons online. Doctrinally sound articles and books will help you better understand the Bible too. Try listening to the Bible online or watch a dramatized video production of it if you’re struggling to read. Technology is constantly being used for evil today, but you can use it for good. God’s word is extremely powerful. Anything you can do to get more of his words in your life, the more you’ll know how to handle your fear of death.
Open Up to People You Trust About Your Fears
If you have some good Christian friends who won’t judge you because of your honesty, it can help to open up about your fears. Some people will persecute you for the honesty of your struggles even though they often struggle with the same things! For that reason, choose wisely. God didn’t intend for us to live in isolation from others. We’re better together and need each other. Sometimes, just admitting you’re struggling can make the burden feel much lighter.
To your surprise, you may find that your friends struggle with the same fears. You can be an encouragement to each other as you walk and talk through your fears of death together. Don’t let others discourage you from passionately seeking God. Keep asking the tough questions, and God will reward you with hope and answers. Doing so shows that you’re on the right track. And don’t buy into the lie that you have to keep your fears to yourself. If you don’t admit them, they’ll likely grow to the point that you feel out of control.
Talk to God About Your Fear of Death
Besides talking with people, it helps to admit to God how you’re feeling. He can handle and understand the deepest worries of our hearts far better than we or other people can. Talk to God and ask Him for help. If you need to get right with Him, do so. If you need to ask forgiveness for sin that may be keeping your relationship with Him from growing, make that a priority.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, it can be tough to talk to God. That could be due to an unusual amount of grief, fatigue or numerous other factors going on in your life. If this is where you’re at, try reading or listening to the Psalms. Most of them were written by King David, who was well-acquainted with the ongoing worry of dying. It seems that someone was always trying to discredit or kill him. His Psalms provide a raw look into the wide gamut of emotions a child of God goes through and how to pray through those struggles.
For the child of God, struggle is normal. We’re all growing in our faith, and we typically don’t grow very well without encountering hardship. Try praying along with David if you find your own words won’t come to you. Several of the Psalms are sure to uniquely relate to your situation.
Meditate on the Nature of Death through Scripture
As shared earlier, study the entire Bible. However, if you’re struggling with the fear of death, now is a great time to do an in-depth study about death and the afterlife. What can you expect when you die with or without God? Also, do an in-depth study of why death isn’t something to be afraid of as a Christian.
The first step is turning your life over to Christ. There are ample warnings throughout scripture to do this. After turning our lives to God, it’s helpful to meditate on what death looks like for a believer. It is complete hope and freedom to the point you won’t want to come back to earth.
Help Others Prepare for Death
Use what you learn from your scripture research and friendships to help others who are struggling. There are many millions around the world afraid to die who don’t have the answers they need. By taking the time to understand the scriptures, you’ll have the unique ability to help others who are having a tough time. Sadly, many people who’ve been in church their entire lives know very little about what the scriptures have to say on this subject.
Remember that Bible knowledge by itself isn’t enough to help others who are scared to die. You need to have a strong ongoing dialogue with God to have the wisdom, love, power and compassion to make a difference. What may surprise you is that by helping others work through their fear of death, you’ll also help yourself.
Realize that Committed Christians Still May Be Scared to Die
There are some Christians who say they’re not afraid to die. Well, that’s very easy to say when you’re healthy and don’t feel that death is imminent. Just as it’s easy to say you’re not scared of tornadoes when you’ve never seen one or if you don’t expect to anytime soon. God may take the fear of death away from one of his children. It’s equally possible that some of his children may be in for a more difficult struggle.
It’s important to remember that how someone dies doesn’t necessarily indicate their heart. The wicked in Psalm 73 may have easy and pain-free deaths, but that doesn’t mean they’re right with God. Scripture is clear on the reasons why we should be scared to die if we’re not right with God. Equally, a child of God’s fear of death isn’t based on the facts. In reality, they have nothing to worry about and have infinite things to look forward to. It’s just that their earthly weaknesses may play on their fears.
Fear God, Not Death
The scriptures say to fear God, who judges our eternal souls instead of people who can harm only our bodies. As Christians, we’re on a journey to grow an increasingly close relationship with God. Part of that process is developing a proper fear of God. Our fear of God and obedience helps us realize that many of the fears on earth we fret about aren’t worth getting so worked up over. The more we fear God, the less we’ll fear the lesser things like people and death.
Conclusion: For God’s Children, Death is a WONDERFUL Transition
No, it’s not such a wonderful day for those left behind. Tears stream down their faces and children who miss you sob. But they don’t understand how incomparably happy you are because of your saving relationship with Jesus. They only see your once-life-filled body drained of all vitality.
It can sometimes be a challenge for even the most devoted Christ-followers to see much else besides grief when someone they love dies. We’re weak and often struggle to grasp the right conclusions deep in our hearts. We may say they’re in Heaven, but we haven’t gone there yet and our hearts still hurt.
As God’s child, you’ll be so thrilled to be released from the heaviness of your earthly body and this world. You’ll go to live with God and there’s no greater happiness available than that. Many of the things you’re now perplexed by will vanish. And you’ll get answers to a lot of the deepest questions you’ve ever had.
It turns out that what Solomon spoke out of a possibly wayward and pessimistic heart is half true. For the Christian, at least, the day of death is greater than the day of birth. At birth on earth, we enter a heavy and sin-cursed existence. At death, we enter through a window into eternal bliss. You cried at birth when you left your mother’s womb. And you had more than ample reason to do so! Although God’s gift of life was wonderful at that moment, sin’s curse made it feel more like a kick to the face.
None of that when you leave this life as a believer. If you do cry, it’ll be because of tears of joy instead of grief!
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”’Revelation 21:3-4