Death is a constant in our world. It happens every day. Most of the time it is “out there” somewhere, so separated from us that we simply take it as a fact of life. Every once in a while it takes a truly loved one and impacts us deeply – too deep for public consideration or discussion. Sometimes, especially in recent years, it comes in large numbers that serve to make it into something important, but abstract. Rarely are there weeks like this; weeks where death hits those whom we pay attention to even if they are not close. This week death was close enough to matter, but not so close as to cut deeply and avoid discussion or in numbers so large as to make it an abstraction. This week saw two high-profile suicides and the tragic announcement by Dr. Charles Krauthammer of his impending death.
What is most striking about the deaths that confronted us this week just past is the picture of hopelessness painted by them. The suicides are obvious acts of despair and they are heartbreaking. But even Dr. Krauthammer, clearly a good and gracious man – praised by all who knew him, presents in his announcement only an image of satisfaction not one of hope when he says:
I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.
I would wish more for a man like Dr. Krauthammer. Yet the satisfaction of a life well lead is about all that is available to someone who professes areligiousity, even if allied deeply with the religious. One is tempted to fall into hopelessness when confronted with the stories we were confronted with this week. But it is a temptation we must avoid. Hope is what powers this nation and hope is what powers us through each day.
This nation is built on lives that left somewhere and came here – IN HOPE. Our mothers and fathers worked extraordinarily hard in the hope of giving us more and better, and we do likewise for our children. But this hope springs from somewhere – it is not the natural state of mankind as this week has so elegantly illustrated.
We currently live is a world that thinks rules and regulations can make life better, only to have the futility of that approach demonstrated in so many ways. In the suicides of the week past we see that even acclaim and the love of the public cannot provide sufficient hope. I could go on listing all the false sources of hope that we seem to be increasingly calling upon, but we need hope, not false hope.
Psalm 111 offers a surprising answer to the question, “What should I study if I want good work?” Verse 2 reads, “Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” The first part of this verse extols the “works” of God. You might well say it focuses on God’s own work, on what God does in the world.
People come to this country in order to work hard to realize their hopes. They have no hope where they come from because they have no opportunity. Hope is rooted in work, work learned by observing the first and foremost worker. When we hope simply for money or fame we hope for the fruits of work, but genuine hope comes from the work itself, again work learned by apprenticing with the Master.
But hope with regards to death itself comes purely supernaturally. We are helpless and powerless in the face of death. This is what I find so tragic in Dr Krauthammer’s announcement – a man that struggled so hard and so successfully to deal with personal tragedy and physical limitation sounds so powerless. But the Master, He is not powerless in the face of death, He has defeated death.
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray that Dr. Krauthammer can find the hope in those words in his remaining days. I hold tight to these words in a week that has shined a light on death. We each need to work to hold on to our hope.