Haunted by the Fear of Death
Erin was my best friend in middle school, and God knows I needed one. I was getting bullied at school and lagging behind in my efforts to make friends with the boys in my grade. But she was a better friend—male or female—than most kids ever have.
When my parents separated in eighth grade, she was the only person to whom I revealed that I had actually spent a couple of hours crying about it. She told me she felt honored that I trusted her.
We spent hours on the phone making crude jokes and laughing until we could hardly breathe. I couldn’t have made it through middle school without her.
But as we moved over to high school, our friendship was tested by my desire for popularity and her growing sense that I was more willing to be her friend when no one else was looking.
This led to our biggest squabble, which happened at the end of my ninth grade year. I hurt her feelings one day when I purposefully distanced myself from her in public. We ended up having a fight that resulted in a one-month standoff.
The standoff came to an abrupt end on May 26, 1994, when she died in a car accident the day after school let out.
Erin’s death left me in a panic.
If Erin—vivacious, spunky Erin—could evaporate from my reach with no warning, no chance for apologies or reconciliation, then anyone was fair game. I could lose my family members, my friends—they could lose me without a moment’s notice.
This morbid obsession with mortality went on for years. It made me excessively cautious, terrified of the next unseen tragedy that would strike without warning.
I kept taking my fears to Jesus, but they always seemed to creep back into my mind.
And then, about a year-and-a-half ago, my wife had a simple dream. Jesus came to our house wearing blue jeans and a plaid, button-up shirt, looking thick and stocky, kind of like a burly firefighter. To my wife’s surprise, He was coming to stay with us for the weekend.
I was glad my wife had that dream, because at the time, she very much needed reassurance of Christ’s presence in our lives. As it turns out, I did too.
Consistent with my morbid fearfulness, I was often concerned that my wife and daughters might somehow be mortally wounded while I was at work and they were at home. But as my wife’s dream began to sink into my heart, I felt the Lord speak some common sense into my soul, and it sounded something like this:
“Joshua, I am in the house with you and your precious family, and you need to start trusting that.
“How many tragedies have happened in your imagination that never happened in real life? Countless hundreds. Come back to the present, to reality, and stop living in fear. Yes, in this world you will have troubles, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I received His loving admonition, but quite frankly, sometimes I still struggle with my old fears. But as I let them go, one at a time, I’m beginning to see that even when we meet our inevitable end—in fact, especially then—He will not leave us or forsake us.