Death pangs. The thought of experiencing them unnerved me—even though I claimed to be prepared.
As a pre-teen, I felt an overwhelming fear of dying. As a nine-year-old, I had accepted Jesus and knew he had a place in heaven for me, but I feared what I had to experience to get there: death.
A few years later, relatives began dying. First, my paternal grandfather’s unhealthy living habits finally caught up with him. A couple of years later, both of my great-grandparents died. Soon after, the remainder of my grandparents died. Now at retirement age, I have lost one parent and so has my wife. And we know our remaining parents won’t be here forever.
Old age wasn’t why David feared death pangs—he wasn’t old. “The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path” (Psalm 18:4–5 NLT).
A jealous king tailed him, and David ran for his life, hiding in caves and in the wilderness. Death seemed near at all times, but God preserved his life. King Saul didn’t kill him—but was killed himself—and God made David the next ruler.
Only a minority welcome death pangs. Regardless of how tough our circumstances or intense the pain of disease or other body ailments, most don’t wish for death. Rather, they pray for healing or for God to soothe the debilitating situation. But the healing of diseases and the removal of stressful situations won’t stop death. Barring the return of Jesus Christ, everyone will experience it.
We can live peacefully, while at the same time knowing the pangs of death are just around the corner. Doing what I did as a nine-year-old is the first step in facing the death pangs: asking Jesus to forgive our sins and committing our lives to be his follower. This act removes the condemnation we’re under and takes care of the sins we’re responsible for—all of which keep us out of heaven.
Knowing we’ll immediately enter heaven upon death also comforts us. We won’t have to lie unconsciously in the ground until Christ returns. The apostle Paul said to be absent from the body was to be at home with the Lord. Jesus told the thief on the cross who begged for his forgiveness that he would be with him in Paradise that day.
When you make things between you and God right, you no longer have to fear death’s pangs.