Daily Devotional – I’m Normal.™ I AM Ministries
“To promote Godly living in a culture committed to destroying it”
Thursday, May 26, 2016
For centuries, dying was a process that occurred in the home. Surrounded by family, the elders passed into the next world with the eyes of the future, children and grandchildren, gazing upon them. In contrast, most people today face the prospect of dying alone in hospitals or nursing homes. Clinging to life by means of a machine, many of us will watch tortured loved ones decide we have had enough pain and suffering and “pull the plug”, seeking to honor the advance directives set out in living wills.
Advance directives are legal documents that attempt to set down rules that will allow us to experience a “good death”, one that minimizes emotional trauma to all parties. But even with clear and precise instructions, unexpected issues arise frequently. Decisions then become less than obvious, and our emotional attachment always makes allowing a loved one to pass difficult. Given this, what constitutes an appropriate advance directive and how do we put it in place? As is normal, guidance can be found in the Bible.
The death of Jacob, last of the patriarchs, provides some insight on advance directives, both the one he gives to his children and the one God gives to us. Aware of his imminent demise, Jacob takes steps to make his death as acceptable as possible. He also faces it directly and without illusions, which is a blessing to him and an inspiration for his children. With time being of the essence, he calls his son Joseph to him and gives his son his advance directive: “Carry me out of Egypt and bury me with my fathers” (Genesis 47:29-30).
Then, just before he expired, Jacob sat up and reminded Joseph of God’s plan for his life – to make him fruitful and to increase his numbers (Genesis 48:4), which Jacob did faithfully. He also reminded his son of God’s provision of the land in which they would live. Still the master of his family, still worthy of reverence yet recognizing his mortal limits as his body shut down, Jacob was not an object of pity but a reminder of the advance directive God gives us all – prepare the next generation.
With this perspective, Jacob’s death becomes not so much about him, but about life after he is gone. God tells us to be fruitful and multiply – which Jacob did by having twelve sons – so we may fulfill His wishes. The future rests on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. Jacob links the reverence for the past with the hope for the future. He addresses each of his children individually, giving some great hope and others great caution. He does not know if their futures hold success, but through his faith in God knows failure impossible if they stay close to the LORD.
God’s advance directive to all people is to be fruitful and multiply. In a sense, we remember the dead by giving birth to new life, and we die well by giving our children their final instructions after a life of Christian living and devotion to God. But just as technology often complicates or interferes with our demise these days, it also impacts our propensity to give birth to the living.
Despite mind-boggling ways to create children – in vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers, older women bearing children – our society seems less interested in having children than any other in history, employing more birth control methods than ever. We have the lowest birthrates in history, and we kill more babies by abortion than at any time in history. Thus, it appears the advances in medical technologies that have made us a death defying culture have also made us a child denying culture.
Perhaps our obsession of postponing death has clouded our view of the fact we are mortal. In our delusion, we tend to ignore or deny death, which makes the need for procreation seem secondary and less urgent. There appears no pressing need to replace ourselves, with some portions of society even looking to use cloning and stem cells to produce new organs to “harvest” so we may extend our senior years even longer.
God told Adam in the Garden of Eden to be fruitful and multiply. God told Noah after the flood to be fruitful and multiply. God commanded Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to increase in numbers and to teach their children well. These advance directives apply to our generation as well. They seemed normal to the patriarchs, but to many today, they do not. However, Paul also reminds us that each person has a calling, and being unmarried can be normal as it allows us to devote ourselves totally to God (1 Corinthians 7:1, 32-34).
The Bible shows us a good death is achieved largely by living a good life, which includes preparing the next generation. This can be done even if one is childless by helping the children of others. The Bible shows throughout the generations that the greatest threat to the good life and the good death is not sickness, but barrenness. Misery came to Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah until God opened the womb. Yet today, willful sterility is increasingly popular, a type of planned barrenness for those who view children as a burden.
God’s advance directive to all of us is to take care of the next generation – create them and teach them how to live Godly lives. If we do this, they will take care of us in our elder years. Technological and legal issues may confound and confuse our final days, but if we strive to fulfill God’s advance directives to us we have fulfilled our purpose.
We can only pray God will allow each of us a death as peaceful as Jacob’s and the blessing of being surrounded by family. If not, may God grant us the strength to endure the pain, suffering, loneliness, or other troubles that come our way, along with the wisdom for us and our families to make Godly decisions in our final days. Ultimately, our hope for a good death comes not in making a legal and moral advance directive for our passing, but in the advance directive we give to Jesus Christ by accepting Him as LORD and Savior for all eternity. If you don’t have and advance directive with Jesus Christ, make sure you put one in place today.
In His love and service,
A servant of Jesus Christ
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