What Is a “Good Death”?

What Is a “Good Death”?

Based on his upcoming book, Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times

Just before Thanksgiving 2003, I contracted a rare bacterial infection that entered my right lung and then spread to my brain. Within a few days I went from thinking I had a bad case of the flu to contemplating my seemingly imminent death. As a Christian I was not afraid of death, per se. I believe in the apostle Paul’s bold declaration, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). However, the sting of leaving my wife and our three young children remained painful. I felt a great sorrow.

The brain lesions took a heavy toll on my thinking faculties. The infection affected my eyesight; so I couldn’t read. For months I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed by myself. During this trial I battled not only physical illness but also fear, anxiety, and even some doubt.

Ultimately, I knew I wasn’t alone; God was with me in my time of trial and suffering. David’s prayer in Psalm 18:1–6 resonated with me. The recovery was long and painful—with significant ups and downs—but thanks to the Triune God I did recover completely.

On Dying Well

Christ tells us that bodily death is the doorway to eternal life (John 11:25–26). For Paul, the conviction that believers will stand consciously in Jesus’ presence immediately after death made departing this world an attractive option. For many people, however, weakness and suffering can make the dying process difficult and challenging. Yet in spite of the difficulties, countless Christians have exhibited a “good death.” It was said of many martyrs in church history that they “died well.” They faced death with faith, hope, courage, and resolve because of their deep belief in Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave. They were convinced that the Resurrection had defeated death and the fear that it wields.

God always provides exactly what we need to face trying times (2 Corinthians 12:9). In this case he grants us what many have called “dying grace.” Christians can meet death with courage and hope knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ rules over both life and death.