As a doctor, I’m no stranger to death. Breaking the bad news of a poor prognosis is a regular part of the job, but no matter how many times I do it, it never gets easier. Yet if there’s something I’ve learnt from these interactions, it’s that all pretences are stripped away when death stares at you in the eye. Because when you’re finally forced to confront the reality of your mortality, there’s nowhere to run, no place to hide.
Often, patients would spiral into inconsolable grief or fearful anxiety. Some, in pitiable, desperate hope, try vainly to cling onto anything that gives the slightest glimmer of hope. Others give up completely, in apathetic resignation of the inevitable. And who can blame them? When all they have and treasure is this life, it’s no surprise they respond in this way. But the same needn’t be true for us Christians, not when we have a sure hope that will never disappoint.
In Genesis 23, Sarah dies, and Abraham fights for the right to buy some land to bury her in. To us, this can seem imprudent — why pay when you can get it for free? But this was Abraham’s exercise of faith. He was so sure that God would one day give him the land of Canaan as his inheritance, that he wanted Sarah to have a share in it right now by being buried in it. And because Abraham was so sure that God would one day give him the land of Canaan, he refused to get it for free. Rather than being indebted to the enemies his offspring will eventually conquer (Gen. 15:18-20), he’d rather pay an exorbitant price for a piece of it right now, because he had his eyes set on God’s promises. Later, Abraham himself was buried in this cave too (Gen. 25:9), and so were his descendants (Gen. 49:30-31). Even in death, Abraham knew he had a sure hope that would never disappoint.
Likewise, we have a sure hope that will never disappoint us, even in death. As our time in Genesis has made abundantly clear, we worship a God who is faithful and trustworthy and true. Because of Him, we can walk confidently in the footsteps of Abraham and many others before us, who acknowledge that we are just strangers and exiles on this earth. Because of Him, we can look confidently forward to a better country, a heavenly one that God has promised us (Heb. 11:13-16). Because of our sure hope that will never disappoint, we can stare death in the eye and, in confident, joyful hope, sing, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”