There are a lot of life experiences that we don’t fully understand until we get there. What will life away at college be like? How will I do at my first job? What will this blind date look like? What’s it like to be a parent?
In these cases, many of us try to learn as much about these events as we can. We talk with others to learn more, and read books about how to prepare for them. However, in my experience, when you’ve never experienced things like these, they still end up being new (by definition).
Another “event” that we know is coming (but haven’t yet experienced) is the death of our mortal body. I don’t mean to be morbid, nor to hasten this day for any of us. In fact, it would be great if Jesus returned soon, and saved us all from having to go through that transition.
However, if we contemplate our own mortality, the specific details of the step(s) from this life to the next often bring some uncertainty, even for followers of Jesus. Will it hurt? Will there be a bright light? Will I hang out with Abraham before going to Heaven, or just show up at the judgment, ready for Jesus to speak on my behalf?
When we don’t know what lies on the other side of a decision or journey, though, we can have a choice: we can take the next step forward in fear, or in faith. In the first case, we may find ourselves functionally separated from the abundant life that Jesus offers, long before we pass on from this world, as fear consumes our thoughts and our time.
The other option is much better, though, as Jesus demonstrated just before His death:
Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46 NLT
Remember, Jesus had not died before. He had experienced grief and known loss, but never before had He passed on from living as a human being. The details of what transpired while Jesus’s body was in the tomb are limited (see 1 Peter 3:18-20, for instance), but just before His death, He had to trust God the Father to bring Him back on the third day.
Think about it: Jesus was going into the unknown, being separated from God the Father for the first time since eternity past. If the Father didn’t bring Jesus back to life, this was the end of it. Like a trust fall, or counting on the anesthesiologist to wake you back up after a surgery, Jesus had to have complete faith in God the Father, because Jesus was taking a step into a place from which – I believe – He had no ability to bring Himself back from.
I had some friends who were scuba diving in the ocean once, and returned to the surface to find that the dive boat had left them. This was a similar situation, where they had no reasonable solution to survive if the boat didn’t return to get them…which it eventually did.
In the same way that Jesus entrusted His spirit to God the Father, we should do the same. There will be a point where, once we die, we can do nothing on our own to affect our condition after that. We could give up, and treat death as the end, but God tells us that physical death is not the end of our souls. We could trust in doctors to revive our cryogenically-frozen head in the distant future, but that seems unlikely to work. Or, we can rely on the One who has proven His ability to return people to life. When stepping into the unknown, it’s best to learn from someone who has been there, and who we can trust.
Even more than that, though, Jesus offers new life long before these earth-bound bodies expire. If we are willing to step out and give our lives over to Him – knowing that we cannot control what He gives us in return – it can be a little scary. We want to hold on to what we know and what we think that we control. However, as Jesus was raised not just to life, but to power, glory, and authority, we can trust that God will catch us if we take a step of faith, and give us back far more than we can ever give up.
It’s a big step, but what is waiting on the other side of that door is beyond imagination.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.