August 5, 2014


My first funeral experience traumatized me, but it wasn’t because of the deceased relative. No, as I peered into my uncle’s casket, mouth agape and tears moistening my tiny cheeks, the only thought racing through my mind was They chopped him in half!

The casket was half open, concealing my uncle’s legs, but to my 7-year-old imagination, his lower extremities had been removed to ensure he would fit in the box. Was this what happens after you die? I had to know more.

From that day on I spent my free time feeding my insatiable curiosity with death. I read every book, perused every article, and examined every scripture I believed would give me insight into this mystery.

The fear did not truly kick in until after I asked “When?” For years I had assumed I would have a couple decades to come to terms with my inevitable end, but that all changed after I started watching the news with my parents. I quickly discovered that children my age died every single day. Death had no favorites.

Eventually fear took over. I started spending my nights cowering beneath my sheets, waiting for the villains lurking outside my window to decide it was my time to go. In no time my prayers changed from “God, please protect me as I sleep” to “God, please let them wait for me to be asleep before they break in and end me.” Without realizing it, I had allowed fear to decimate my trust in God.

Some months later my godmother was murdered by her sister, sending me to my second funeral and validating my fears. Just as I was crafting a strategy to remain on my own sister’s good side, I caught a glimpse of the unexpected: a smile. Despite all that had happened, my godmother lay peacefully in her casket with a beautiful smile on her face. I later discovered that she had been a devout Christian who rarely ever worried. Even at death’s doorstep, she had known there was nothing to fear—she was in God’s hands.

Fear, much like death, was not part of God’s original plan (2 Tim. 1:7). It is a by-product of sin, and it has the power to separate us from Him. Fear makes us take actions into our own hands rather than trusting God (1 Kings 19:2, 3), keeps us from leaving all behind and following God (Mark 10:21, 22), and causes us to hide from a loving God because we believe Him to be unforgiving (Gen. 3:8).

We know that Jesus came to abolish death, but we often overlook the fact that He showed us how to overcome fear in the process. When Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matt. 26:39), He wasn’t just testing out a tasteful metaphor. He was crying, “Father, I’m scared. If there’s another way, please, please tell Me!” Jesus was afraid. But He did not let it come between Himself and the Father. He continues, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” meaning “I’m terrified, but if this is what you wish, then I’ll do it without hesitation.” Jesus left the safety of heaven to be our example even when enveloped in fear.

I no longer fear death. Yes, I still fasten my seat belt and whisper prayers for protection, but I know there is no need to worry. I am in God’s hands. As long as I trust Him, fear is in the back seat. And it will never come between us again.