Life is Hard and then You Die

Life is hard and then you die.

The teenaged boys in my home thought it was the funniest put-down ever coined.  Younger brother was complaining because he had to wash dishes two days in a row?  Life is hard and then you die.

Older brother bemoaning a speed bump in his love life?  Life is hard and then you die.

It worked for any situation.  We used it as a smart aleck reply for everything.

That was before life really was hard.

That was before people we knew really did begin to die.

I’m thinking now that life is more than just the hard bits.  I’m thinking that there is more to it than just dying after the hard bits.  Sometimes, it is difficult to keep my focus on those truths.  I’ve had too many conversations about how hard life is recently.  I’ve also had too many conversations about death.

Why is it so easy to focus on the negative and miss the good things?

Last Friday, the Lovely Lady and I had a delightful evening out with old friends.  We talked and laughed and ate, all of them to excess. It was a bright hour or two, spent in the company of happy people.

I haven’t thought about the evening since, until just this minute.

Perhaps that is because, on that same evening, we went home and I placed a telephone call to California.  I only talked with the person on the phone for a fraction of the time that we spent with our friends.

I have thought of nothing else since.

The man on the other end told me that he had decided to die.  Not in so many words.  The outcome would be his death, nonetheless.  My father is experiencing heart failure, and he wants to live out his days on his own terms.  Who could deny him that?

The world was suddenly a dark place, devoid of joy, almost of hope.

Life is hard and then you die.

You see how quickly we begin to believe the lie?  I know many who live permanently in its shadow, who walk in it, who languish through sleepless nights entangled in it.  And yet…

Life is hard.  You will die.

But, that’s not all, is it?  There is more now.  The joyous stops along the way–the laughter, the light–all of these and more are also events that are woven into the material that goes into the making of the whole cloth of our existence.  The light colors and the dark all combine together to create a thing of beauty that defies description.

But there is one more thing which puts the lie to the hopeless reality we imagine that vile statement to express.  Holding the entire garment together, insuring that we can wear it with confidence, is faith.  That unbreakable thread of truth and hope and life which wends its way through every inch of the fabric also proves the lie that after hardship come the finality of darkness without hope.

Just as there is more to life now, there is more to come.

Life is hard, and joyful, and sad.  And, then you die.  The world we live in has taught us to be terrified of that door.  Those for whom faith is a joke, a term of distaste, believe the door to be a dead end, from which those who enter will never emerge.

I laughed the other day as I saw the evidence of this foolishness in a little child in the music store.  Her mother had set her down to play while she shopped, only to realize that she had forgotten her purse.  She called out a hurried explanation to the toddler as she rushed out the door to her car.  The child heard the words, but could only perceive that her mother was gone forever.  She could not longer see her, nor hear her voice, therefore she must have left her permanently in this scary place with that terrible man.

The screams began faster than I could even think of an explanation.

So I just told her that life is hard and then you die.

Okay.  Obviously, that’s not what I did.  What I did was walk to the door and open it, letting her see that her mother was just leaning into the car to pull out her purse.  She wasn’t gone at all; the doorway was only a passageway between the two worlds of music store and parking lot.  I let the door swing shut.

She did not cry again, but went back to the Lego building blocks on the table before her. The glimpse was enough and faith was at work.

At times, our Creator has given us glimpses of what lies beyond the doorway.  C S Lewis suggested that the reason we love certain parts of our world so much is that they mirror what is to come.  I won’t insist on it, but it is a reasonable assumption, I think.

Another way in which I believe this world mirrors the one to come is in our relationships with like minded (or nearly so) friends and with family.  Without them, life would be empty and indeed hard.  I’m pretty sure that heaven will be full of such people.  Many of them have already made their way through the doorway.

My father, for some inexplicable reason, has decided to accept medical help. I am overjoyed.  Still, I want to make this clear.  He will die anyway.  Someday.  We all will keep that appointment eventually.  The doorway will open when it is time and we will go through to what lies ahead.

I will be sad when that happens for him.  But, I will also refuse to be without hope. 

Life is hard.  Life is good.  Life is sad.  Life is full of joy.

And then…

“I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
(John 14: 2b,3 ~ NASB)

“I have come home at last!  This is my real country!  I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.  The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this…Come further up, come further in!”
(from The Last Battle ~ C.S. Lewis ~ Irish novelist/theologian ~ 1898-1963)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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