Are You Afraid to Die? {Book Club}

Sitting in the library I was just about to read chapter 5 in  What Women Fear by Angie Smith when I received a text from a friend. They were at the doctor and had just gotten news that gave them pause and wanted me to be praying. My heart sank. We each have stories or diseases or experiences that grab us more than others. It hit a little too close to home.

I texted back I would and then picked up this chapter to read about the fear of dying. In general, I am not afraid to die and I don’t have strong fears about people I care passionately about dying. At least that is what I think on a normal afternoon if you were to ask me before I get a text about a friend.

Hypothetical situations are much easier to navigate than real ones.

I do not relate to Angie’s paralyzing fear and the need to be on vigil for loved ones, but I have friends who have fears (though they tend to use the word “anxiety”) about loved ones.

Angie had my attention when she said, “I have read stories of incredible M’s who have been martyred for the faith and I can’t help but wonder if I would have that kind of selfless courage.” We know martyrdom is real and there are real people suffering for their faith, but in general, I don’t recognize her fear in my life of cross-cultural work. I know a few people who died (two in a plane crash) and others of natural causes. But I know far more who have lived.

But this is what fear often does, isn’t it? It takes a handful of real situations that are not the majority of experiences and holds them up as the model. I don’t know about you, I wonder too if I would have the courage to be martyred. Years ago, I thought I did and then I had several very painful medical situations and realized the chances were pretty high that if I was actually tortured, I would probably denounce Jesus. Again, hypothetical me is a lot braver in the face of pain than real me.

Later she talked about “rough patches”—like turbulence when flying—”they all carry with them the feeling that we might not be able to escape, and that feeling is like a noose around the neck, day in and day out. We struggle to gain control and we struggle even more to let it go. How beautiful would it be to truly believe without question that we were only in the prelude?”

It would be beautiful. It is beautiful. But those rough patches are real, aren’t they? I was thinking about death scenes in movies and Steel Magnolias came to mind. MaLynne, Shelby’s mom, may have been a bit overbearing, as she parented a sick child who grew up to be a sick adult. In this scene, MaLynne cries the cry of  mother’s heart when her child has died.

How about you? I think there is a natural fear for the death of children. But there is a difference between a healthy fear and debilitating fear. Death does change our relationships. It can rob us of the closure we had hoped to get. It can rob us of a person being a part of the story. It can rob the next generation of knowing an aunt, uncle, grandma or grandpa.

In our line of work, the fear of death can wear different masks. Will I get home before he dies? If I take a Home Assignment will precious local friends die and be eternally separated from their maker? If I die overseas, what complications will it cause my family? If my spouse dies, will my organization let me stay on the field with our children?

Do any of those fears sound familiar?

Until the comments,

Amy 🙂

P.S. Next week we’ll discuss chapter 6.

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20 Comments

  1. Kim April 4, 2016

    I love that movie and that’s my favorite scene 🙂 I admit to occasionally being unreasonably afraid for my husband, children or other loved ones. Thankfully it’s not my normal mind set. No idea what causes these periodic flares of fear, and even in the midst of it I know it’s not reasonable. Thankful for Scripture that reminds me Who I need to trust — and what I really need to fear.

    1. Michele Womble April 5, 2016

      I occasionally get unreasonably afraid for loved ones, too.  I guess it’s…normal…?  Even thought not what we’re supposed to do if we’re trusting Him with them.

      I loved the movie, but I can’t watch it.  I watched it once.  🙂

  2. Spring April 4, 2016

    A few days after we left the US for Belize, a friend committed suicide. We knew she was struggling and honestly I know she was not alone.  Those close to her tried everything: medicine, she moved in with her  inlaws, she was going to counseling.  For me it was a wakeup call to see suffering and mental illness in a different light.  It is my hope that through her death, I am able to have compassion in a new way.    I don’t know that I’ve had an “unnatural” fear of death but I struggle with seeing it as natural.  When someone gets taken early it is a similar feeling to what is expressed in that clip.

     

    That hit home with me!  Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Amy Young April 5, 2016

      Oh man, Spring, that’s rough.

      To any of you right now struggling with suicidal thoughts, there is NOTHING shameful about it. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. Is there someone you can reach out and ask for help? You are not a failure and as hard as your life is now, thank you for continuing in the struggle, you are brave.

      OKay I just had to say that :). Thank you for pointing that part of death out to us!

    2. Michele Womble April 5, 2016

      I’m so sorry about your friend.  It’s so hard to get that kind of news overseas, anyway, and even more so…

      About death and “natural” – I think it’s normal to struggle with seeing death as “natural”.  I don’t think it IS “Natural”.  I mean, it’s part of the nature of things NOW – but it IS a result, a fall-out, of sin. So in that sense I think it’s right for us to feel that it’s wrong – something “wrong” is happening when someone dies – necessary, in the new (current) order of things, but still…not “natural”…

  3. Brittany April 5, 2016

    I didn’t think I’d relate much to this chapter. I haven’t really been anxious about death. I’ve never been afraid of death itself, but been a little nervous for *how* I will die. I’m not a brave one and I don’t tolerate pain well. I remember as a kid asking God to just let me die peacefully in my sleep. When school shootings happened, when terrorist attacks began, I really started to fear. Would I be able to stand firm in that kind of situation? I don’t want to find out! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that God gives us what we need when we need it.

    I had never lost anyone. And then while on the field for our first term, in a matter of a few months, I lost two people very dear to me. My own child was lost to miscarriage, and my grandmother died shortly after. I learned about pressing into the Lord like never before because I was alone and powerless. I would say that those experiences heightened my fear for loved ones a little more, but it also made me see that God is good and He alone sustains. I don’t want to ever experience any more losses, but I know that’s not reality. I also know, God is enough.

    1. Amy Young April 5, 2016

      I love how books can be a way for us to share your stories. I do NOT love that you have lost a little one and your grandma! But I can see how God uses these experiences to teach and grow us. In part, teach and grow our capacity to just sit with people.

  4. Monica F April 5, 2016

    I recently read a powerful devotional by Lysa Terkeurst entitled ‘Planning Funerals that Won’t Happen Today’- primarily addressing fears about death, and losing children.  She reminds the reader that Jesus conquered death so we don’t have to be afraid of it anymore… this encouraged my mama heart which has a tendency to imagine worst case scenarios on a playground or in a village.  I still get frustrated with myself that after so many ‘close calls’ overseas, I still have a tendency to ‘fear the worst’ for my family (not necessarily death itself), but remain totally calm and trusting when it comes to colleagues, team mates or local friends going through a crisis.  Is it an issue of becoming more brave, having more faith?  I’ve learned in my ‘fear moments’- the best thing for me is to pray, pray, pray, and remember all the promises He’s made.

    1. Amy Young April 5, 2016

      This might seem very off topic, but your comment reminded me of when i was a kid. I could not STAND any medical situation involving a friend or family member. Do not tell me, do not show me, do not involve me. But anything involving myself, utterly fascinating! When I needed stitches, coolest thing ever. Weird. It’s funny how we can have such different tolerances to the same situation depending on who it effects.

      1. Michele Womble April 5, 2016

        You know, Amy, that it’s usually the opposite.  Just saying. 🙂

  5. Hadassah April 5, 2016

    At the end of February, we spent a week in Istanbul, visiting with family who were there for a conference.  About two weeks later, after returning home, we got news of the bombing that took place on the very street we had shopped on the day before heading home.  It really shook me to see the pictures and think, “We were just strolling down that street, hand in hand with our girls, enjoying each other’s company and time off!”  Then, a few weeks later the bombing at the airport in Belgium.  In our line of work, airports are a necessity, and to have these places targeted shook me, as well.

    I’ve lived long enough outside of the United States in places people there might consider dangerous to know that danger is all around us.  I sometimes joke with my family that they’d be safer with me overseas than amidst all the turmoil at home.  In all that time I’ve never lived with a fear of dying.  But now, after imagining that it could have been us on that street…I am a little afraid.  I don’t want the devil, however, to get a hold of that fear and exploit it.  So, I’m claiming the promises in Psalm 37.  I will REST in the Lord, COMMIT my ways to Him, and allow Him to ORDER my steps, knowing that PEACE and ETERNITY are my inheritance.

    “And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked and save them, because they trust in Him.”  Ps. 37:40

    1. Amy Young April 5, 2016

      Amen! and Amen.

      What Satan wants to use to sow fear in us, God can use instead and knit us more closely to him. I’m praying that for you, Hadassah. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry you could picture it. And I’m sorry for the friends and family left behind.

    2. Ellie April 6, 2016

      Hadassah, I’m sorry that’s really anxiety-making.

      I think I have been affected more by the images on the news than I realise as well (even though I try not to see them) as we work in Europe and have friends in both places.. Because places that seem safe no longer might be so and because it’s so random. Our friend was due to fly out of the airport in Belgium just days later. And realistically you know that it’s no more likely anything will happen then (in fact less likely, probably) but it’s the fear.. Isn’t that just how Satan wants us to fear – like Amy says, he takes a situation and spreads its fear.

      I also wonder about the “wisdom” of international news reporting – like the study that showed that kids who had been repeatedly exposed to images of 9/11 were exhibiting much more stress and anxiety. Do we glorify the violence/perpetrators’ aim by plastering it repeatedly over everything, I think there must be such a thing as discreet and dignified reporting that isn’t about gratuitously selling other people’s misfortunes but I don’t know exactly what it is like and I don’t think it’s common in the press..

      Anyway, solidarity and blessings in the middle of it.

  6. Emily Smith April 5, 2016

    Okay…so that title and picture were not the most comforting thing to read at my boarding gate as I prepared to fly over the Pacific. (The first leg of my journey went great…and I’m trusting the second will as well)

    But this chapter was hitting pretty close to home. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of a close friend. Over the past several years we have gotten far to many calls about deaths. It started to become a question of WHEN the next call will come…not IF it will come.

    So this chapter hit home. The fear is real. And so is the grief. Trying to balance and navigate the complicated web of emotions isn’t always easy. Learning how to trust God even when the worst really does happen.

    1. Amy Young April 5, 2016

      Can I just laugh a little first? Oh my word! No, that title and picture might not be the last thing you want to read before you board a plane :).

      I think similar to you . . . it’s not so much that I fear death, but I weary of the loss and the ripple effects that come with death. Just last week we had a HUGE spring storm and limbs came down. I was able to cut up most of the branches, but I need to use a power saw to get the really big ones and I thought, “I forgot to ask my dad how to use a chainsaw before his died.” There are still so many little things I forgot to ask him about :). And my friend Kim’s died last month. I forgot when I picked (or clicked or whatever) with life long fiends in college, I was also picking the people who would walk through all of the deaths of the generation before us. It hit me, that was just the first friend’s parent’s death from college. I’ve also had teammate’s parent’s die. How many friends do I have? How many parents do they have? How much death do I have before me?

      Now that I have depressed myself, I think I’m ready for an international flight 🙂

      Or a drive home from the library. Blessings Emily, as you jet lag!!

      1. Emily Smith April 6, 2016

        After I did a double-take, I laughed at the title and timing. But I’m home and alive now after the least anxiety producing move I have ever done.

        Weary of the loss…that is it exactly. Won’t heaven just be marvelous?

  7. Ellie April 6, 2016

    Hi, checking in in the midst of a season where all I want to do it hide under a duvet until it all goes away and comes back better!

    I haven’t been able to continue reading the book because it was actually adding to my fears reading about somebody else’s (if that makes sense!) but catching up on posts I wanted to say that I read recently some stuff about post traumatic stress disorder and one of the things that comes up, along with flashbacks and so on, is that you may have a very strong fear of people close to you dying.  I think as other things that you relied on to be true have been turned upside down suddenly it causes you to question a lot of other “safe” things around you (that was my reading of it anyway.)

    There’re probably a lot of cross cultural workers who have had a traumatic event or several(!) in our recent or more distant past. As I am working through a period of “it’s all caught up with me” I have definitely been more anxious about the safety of my children (when they’re sleeping safely in their beds kind of thing – like not even when they’re out on the street – and of “close calls” with driving  – normal in nearly every moment on the road here..) and I’m aware it’s because I’m out of kilter.

    We spent some time last week with counsellors and I know we need a longer-term break and we’re working towards that now but just wanted to share what’s happening to me because I feel like there’s a line between “I’m a bit anxious, or a bit more anxious than normal” and “actually I am over reacting and jumping at normal noises (my husband’s phone going off earlier made me jump out of my skin)” and that is a sign of all that we’ve gone through in recent years having completely wiped out my system. In this hot water that is cross-cultural living I am realising more than ever that it’s easy for the water to be boiling and not to notice the danger we are in and need to get help. If anyone else is feeling that I’d encourage you to check in with someone trusted or trustworthy.

    1. Emily Smith April 6, 2016

      Oh, Ellie! I want to be able to give you a hug right now. I also understand about not being able to read this book now. I’ve had those seasons.

      “It is easy for the water to be boiling and not notice the danger we are in” Yes. So true. My biggest warning sign (okay, I should have figured out long before) was when I had to use my left hand to hold my right hand steady enough to write. It isn’t normal to be so anxious that your whole body shakes all the time.

      I’m back home. I have counseling appointments set up. I’ve also chosen to be pretty vocal about getting help. Sometimes the bravest, strongest thing you can do is to go “home” and get help.

      Praying you are able to find a supernatural peace in the midst of a very unsettled season.

    2. Jodie April 6, 2016

      I’m really sorry to hear about all the stress you’re under now too, Ellie, so that you jump when the phone rings and feel like the water is boiling. Hoping with you that you can get the longer break that you need and that God brings healing and restoration.

      What encouraged me most from this chapter was the picture she took of her daughter up in the air with her head thrown back and a huge smile on her face. Conquering fear and living life in the freedom of the moment.

      God used two pictures of my children in a counseling session yesterday to show me something significant and I am grateful for the breakthrough that happened in my heart as we prayed through that.

  8. Phyllis April 7, 2016

    Last week a young couple from our church in their first year overseas lost their first baby. I feel like I should just stop writing there. Selah?

    I haven’t exactly been afraid of dying, but I have a desperate fear of what would happen to my children if I did. We work with orphans, and I see daily….

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