For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21
Last night, my wife and I watched a new Hugh Jackman movie, “Reminiscence”. It was a Noir-type film, dystopian, mysterious, and moody. The backdrop was the not too distant future where many of the climate crisis fears the world now has, have been realized. Florida, more specifically Miami, now resembles the Italian city of Venice. Corridors of water now fill the city streets, boats replacing cars as the main mode of travel. Buildings are partially submerged, upper portions still habitable. The lines between the have and mostly have-nots have separated even more. Add to all of that some vague references to a war, and the collective mindset of the people was towards despair. For the majority, there seemed to be nothing good to look forward to, so people turned to their past to re-live some of their best moments with the help of a machine run by Jackman, that makes the past very real to those that miss it.
It can feel that way sometimes. Life can be so overwhelming, that you wish you could go back and hold tightly onto happier moments.
It feels like there’s a lot of chaos in the world right now, not just here in the U.S., but all over the world. We’re still trying our collective best to contain a deadly virus, and now we have this growing unrest and instability in Afghanistan. Back here in the US, we’re dealing with the anger over how best to handle enforcing the laws that keep us safe, while also protecting the rights of others from undue force. Our borders seem to be a mess as we try to figure out the best way forward, trying to display both compassion for those seeking a better life, and the resolve to care for our own. If that weren’t bad enough, there seems to be more division as ever. People unwilling to be charitable towards one another and respect each other’s ideas and perspectives as valid and having worth in at least some capacity. No. It feels as if both sides have this all or nothing mentality that won’t budge one Iota.
It’s a miserable way to live. I can understand wanting to sit in some deprivation chamber, feeding off of old memories full of weddings, child births, and good old fashioned belly laughs.
But… This is where we are.
In difficult moments, Christians have this saying. “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” It comes straight from Revelation 22:20. It’s a plea for Jesus to return soon, if the, “come quickly” wasn’t enough of a hint for you.
We all have days like that, don’t we?
Life feels overwhelming. It’s hard to make ends meet at times. Maybe your spouse left you, and now you’re a single parent who has twice the work, twice the responsibility and only half the resources. Maybe you’re sick or dealing with some other tragedy. Maybe you’re like one of my nieces, and she just can’t stand watching a world that’s become increasingly full of negativity and anger and hate. Everything feels like it’s falling apart.
“…Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
Sometimes, you just don’t want to “life” anymore.
It’s kind of like a “death wish” for Christians.
It’s very possible you just want Jesus to come and fix it finally and forever, but if you like me when I say it, I’m probably just hoping he takes me out of the equation. Maybe I can watch from a cloud while I strum my harp? (Relax, I don’t actually believe that) I have days when I want my part in all of it to be done. I don’t want to feel pain and hurt anymore, and I don’t want to be someone else’s pain and hurt anymore. I just want to go. So, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
What I, and the rest of us, more likely mean is, “…to die is gain”
I know the first part, “To live is Christ…” We all do, right? We know that we are his witnesses and while here on earth as his ambassadors, we should be giving people the good news of the Gospel found in the person of Christ. Sometimes that means life is not easy. Paul absolutely understood this as well. If you read 2 Corinthians 11, you’ll find a checklist of suffering at the hands of others, as well as a list of his many other difficulties, all on the account of being a witness for Christ.
Most of us can’t even sniff at some of those things, but we have our own personal demons and struggles as we live out our lives for Christ’s purpose. At some point, even for Paul, we all get to, “…to die is gain.” All of us have that “death wish” moment. I don’t think we consider it in some flippant manner, it’s how we feel in our weak moments, our overwhelming moments. We want the end game, we want a soul rid of sin and struggle, We want to be in the bosom of God, pain-free waiting expectantly for our loved ones and friends to join us.
2 Corinthians 5:8, says, “…We would rather be away from the body, and home with the Lord”
Anyone disagree with that? We do die, and as much as we may loathe the process, and I am personally not looking forward to it, I know death is a transition to better, to wholeness. I’m not afraid to say on occasion I have a “death wish”.
Despite that, I war with those thoughts, just like Paul did.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” – Philippians 1: 21-24
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stand before a congregation of believers and preach God’s encouragement to them found in the Gospel. Every day at work, I have the opportunity to display compassion to those in need, quietly praying for them as they finish their business. As I write this, I am getting ready to meet up with a brother from Twitter, for some food, but more importantly for some mutual friendship as brothers in Christ, so that we both might leave off with our spirits hopefully fuller than our bellies.
I have days, many days, where it would feel easier to just go home. But, I know to remain is necessary, now more than ever. To remain means to interject ourselves into people’s lives, Christians and non-Christians, to give them a taste of hope. A waterfall of eternal grace. I know there are people who interact with me who give me the same, because I am not immune from despair. God has someone remaining in the flesh for me.
That death wish we have, the occasional, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” is a pretty normal thought for the Christian. We are after all, strangers and exiles in this world, and the only mode of transportation back home to our forever-ever-land is death. Even as we wait for that train, It shouldn’t, and likely doesn’t stop us from telling people about our new citizenship. We honor Christ while we wait by proclaiming the Gospel. We testify to his mercy and grace for us by reminding others it is for them as well.
Franky, I’d like others to have a healthy Christian death wish as well.
But that’s just me.