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Death Becomes Me

Life has been really hard recently. I don’t have all my wits about me these days. Hardly an original thought comes to me as of late. I am just continually banking on all the theology of the cross stuff.

If I let myself and my thoughts go, I would say that so much of life is only about making it tolerable. Think about it. Death becomes me. Death becomes us. Death is such an unnatural breach to our existence. At some point, it rapes our flesh of its soul. But long before this unnatural breach of contract, the soul begins to die and it takes its spouse with it. We live while dying and we die while living.

I was talking to someone the other day that actually made an argument for the health wealth gospel. They made an argument for the health wealth gospel! As I listened to it, I think I experienced a bit of theological vertigo. I simply had never heard an informed person actually argue for such crap. But beyond theology, beyond the Bible, I actually entertained that maybe he was right. Maybe God does want us to be healthy and wealthy. Maybe all my troubles of late are unnecessary and without any transcendent purpose and value. Maybe God was not involved in my sister’s death, my mother’s paralysis, all the depression, all the pain, all the troubles, and all the death?

My cousin who, in the name and purpose of the Lord, moved us back to Oklahoma in 2007 to help take care of my mother died a few weeks ago. But death did not become him. He was a believer who gave so much of himself to God. When I was young, I heard stories about him picking up hitchhikers and giving them the Gospel. Hitchhikers! He was a millionaire many times over. Successful from the standard of the world and the church. Suddenly, at 63 years old, his life fell apart. Death became him in such an unnatural way. Alone, with a gun, he became death.

Suicide. While I understand it, it baffles me more than anything else in this fallen world. It is the epitome of our condition. To think that someone can come to a point where they are ready to end it all with a gun, a rope, or a fall is more than I can bear. I hate such pain. But I hate it most when someone does so while crying out to a God who has no plans to abort the attempt.

God warned us of such pains. God never guaranteed anything but pain, suffering, and dealing with the stench of death. All things were “very good” for a very short time, then death became it.

As I listened to this argument for the health wealth, all I could think was that this guy has yet to smell what God smells. God smells the death all around better than we do. Redemption is coming. It is not finished. There is one enemy yet to be defeated. Until then, I will keep smelling this stench without denying its unbearability. I will join God in the pain of this life that caused him to do something so drastic the cosmos still can’t comprehend what happened. Death became God. Until our resurrection, death with become me and you. Take courage.

31 Responses to “Death Becomes Me”

  1. Michael,

    As a dear brother you are scaring me. Surely you know the gospel is about abundant life, and I am NOT talking about the craziness of the health-wealth prosperity, name it and claim it hyper-charismatic stuff. But our inner life with Christ.

    Yes, I know you have problems, me too. I have just been diagnosed with cancer, yet I have to hold on the promise that God Himself made us. You are fortunate to be young, and in good health. because so many of us are not. Celebrate that instead., and thank God every day for it.

    I hope you can and will change the legacy of your children from this negativity you have inherited and give them a positive, hope filled example to follow instead. It is within your power, under the Good News to do so.

    God bless.

  2. Strange how dolphins, reputedly one of the smartest creatures, are beaching themselves en masse. Makes me wonder if they are trying to make a statement – “you’re messing up our world and making it terrible for us to live, please stop it!”

    Man is doing it to himself too, life is, for many, just ridiculously unbearable, and it doesn’t really seem to be getting much better for many. The book of Ecclesiastes is right, the world just doesn’t make sense. The believer has a fabulous hope for the next world, and knows he has put his life in God’s hands. And many of us can hardly wait for that hope to be fulfilled. And when in despair he steps up to the brink and has just had enough anguish and really feels he can’t keep it going any longer, well, there is the conflict. It takes a huge amount of strength to commit suicide. Huge. It is not easy, even when you think about it a lot it is just not an easy thing to do. And so most people just don’t do it and they keep on struggling.

    God is gracious, but facts are facts, this is a cold cruel world waiting for the Lord’s return to make things right again. And He is going to. “Lord, don’t let us go. Protect us, use us, fill us, guide us, let us glorify You!”

  3. Michael, I do believe that in the life of the believer we encounter many valleys and some mountain top experiences. Recently, I was asked to help with some words that could be given to a friend who had just lost their child. My advice was to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    “Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words.”

    I do belive that God’s grace fills those deep and painful places in our lives-I would agee with your sentiment that “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” Job 5:7.

    And yes, there are times in our walk we are just hanging on-however my understanding of God’s word has always been my foundation. Hang on to the truths that you know and have been taught, let them sink down deep and become very real, God bless brother,

  4. I agree in a way, but in another way, the resurrection means Christ has overcome death already. He has already won, and he has begun to make all things new. Christ, as the second Adam, put the garden back to rights when he arose. This doesn’t mean that we won’t be surrounded with pain, suffering, and death nor does it mean that those things don’t matter; it just means that the God we serve HAS defeated the enemy. It’s our job to love others in the midst of a world that desperately needs to know and experience that.

  5. I would think that some of David’s Psalms, Eccl, Job, and especially Lamentations would receive severe criticism due to their cynicism were they to have blogged them. I think my readers need to keep such things in mind. There are certain times of our lives where expressions such as these are not only appropriate, but necessary for the sanctification of the church. And it should be obvious that my attitude changes and I do come out of the mire. But don’t fault me for writing while in the mire.

  6. This is true but unbalanced. And I don’t mean crazy. I can relate but I can’t live there. ;-) we have to consider other things

  7. This life is a “veil of tears”. In it, there is no peace, no rest, and no victory. None that are lasting.

    But He suffers along with us. He is there in our pain.

    The grave will have us, one day. But because of Him it will not hold us. And then all our tears will be dried and the party will begin.

  8. Michael,

    Don’t think anyone is faulting you here. At least I’m not, but just saying we have something bigger in our lives as Christians to look forward to, and that is Christ. Just that sometimes it’s harder than others to see that, and we can get bogged down by concentrating too hard on ourselves. Don’t mean to sound trite, because I’m having a hard time myself, but still we have to keep on keeping on otherwise our faith isn’t worth much in the clinches.

  9. I think the irony for me Michael, is that when you blog from this place in your life, you are the most comforting, encouraging, fearless, Christian blogger on the web.

    It’s the countless silent ones that suffer in this world that draw strength from you allowing and pushing and fighting yourself to pen these soothing words.

    All the most sophisticated theology thinkers in the world can’t do what you do, right here, right now.

    These posts are the real McCoy, the posts that let so many of us know that we’re not alone and we have someone of your stature to stand with us and encourage us and tell us it’s OK, God still loves you, even in the shit.

    And that Michael, is serving the Church for real. Serving us right where we are; in the blood, muck, death, darkness and pain of this world.

    Nobody else does it and so I thank you from my heart.

  10. Very sublime, Michael. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes:

    “Everything we do is painful; it’s just as senseless as chasing the wind.”

  11. Michael,

    Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. The personal blogs that you share (like this one) is something that speaks to a lot of people. Love your blog articles!!!

  12. the Lord’s perfect comfort and peace to you…yes, longing anxiously, sorrowful yet always rejoicing, and keeping on rejoicing (Rom 8:19;2 Cor 6 10; 1 Pet 4:13).
    Peter’s prosperity gospel= Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matt16:22-24).
    Jesus, because of the suffering of death was crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. Heb 2:9-10
    Praise be to God!

  13. Lamentations was before the cross. We have something they all hoped to have…we are on a cake walk in this age, in comparison..When Martha was asked if she knew that Lazurus would live again her reply was that he would would stand in the ressurection at the last day. Jesus’ reply to her is fitting here..It’s more then waiting to be raised to judgement and he has more power than to raise the physically dead body of Lazarus. Christ was the life she needed now. Being born again must have some benifits , the outpouring of his spirit must have made something more available.

  14. Michael, I share many of the feeling expressed above. I have missed your posts recently and this post explains your absence.

    Posts like this are real and genuine. All of us pass through things, sometime very particular things, that lead us into the valley–sometimes a very dark valley. We are not supermen and freely admit that we are not. But, in the midst of all, we know we will have the final triumph because our Lord is the Victor. Thanks for your honesty.

    Concerning health and wealth, it is not that God wants us healthy and wealthy but that we want both.

  15. jonathan jarvis October 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Our culture does not have a socially appropriate way to lament! We fear it from afar, and attempt to fix it when it comes close to us. It is a striking example of the blend of american optimism with the Gospel of Jesus, who bids us to come and die. The christian culture at times reminds me of the teenager who refuses to be honest about pain insisting everything is fine after his girlfriend just dumped him at the prom. Everyone in his prescience knows there is something wrong and yet they equally know the only way out provided by our culture is either avoidance or redirection(there are bigger fish in the sea). Then comes along the christian who’s depressed the same cultural strategies are employed avoidance or redirection(hey lets talk about something happier or “all things work for good”). My fear is that we keep buying deeper into the american dream and miss what God is saying through His mega phone as we attempt to avoid such topics and think about happier things.

  16. Michael, I have no idea what it is like to go through what you are experiencing now, but I am truly sorry for your pain. I have only skimmed through the responses, but I saw where some thought you were being to negative. I am sure you are aware of the psalms of David where he cries out to God in utter dismay over his predicament. I happen to think this is biblical, as long as we are bringing our suffering to the throne of Christ. Too many times, well-l meaning Christians bandy about platitudes that bring no real comfort. I believe God wants us to be genuine with Him, and with others, so long as our depression does not become an end in itself. He wants to bring us through, and I think the only way to come through to the other side of our earthly afflictions is to be honest with ourselves and admit we can’t understand why these things happen.No on can give me a completely satisfactory answer for the reason for suffering; I have decided to stop asking why and instead ask God…..What now?

  17. It may seem strange to some, but the New Testament doesn’t even use the terms ‘positive’, or ‘negative’.

    It speaks of death and life.

    We do experience many deaths on this earthly journey. Many losses.

    But Christ always raises us. Again and again and again.

  18. I think we can be can be genuine about our emotional responses, but notice David still thought the Lord was sovereign, no matter what his pain. I think that is important to remember.

    If our emotional responses are more important in our lives than our faith in Him, don’t we have we have to ask ourselves some serious questions as to what is more important?

  19. I think sometimes brothers and sisters in the Lord are not able to bear one another’s burdens and that is sad too. Sometimes we just need to be quiet and listen, not offer advice or even encouragement, just listen and comfort.

  20. I agree in a way, but in another way, the resurrection means Christ has overcome death already. He has already won, and he has begun to make all things new. Christ, as the second Adam, put the garden back to rights when he arose. This doesn’t mean that we won’t be surrounded with pain, suffering, and death nor does it mean that those things don’t matter; it just means that the God we serve HAS defeated the enemy. It’s our job to love others in the midst of a world that desperately needs to know and experience that.

  21. Well-written and deep. This is one of those articles a guy might cry over. I’m sorry.

    Some of the comments seem either to not have had a good dose of pain lately or are in denial about it. I’m thinking further unkind things about their insensitivity, but I’ll leave it there.

    People have different personalities. Every personality type has value as well as dangers, but the same truths apply to everyone. Some people just do not understand the melancholic types, of which I am. Maybe we can be too pessimistic oftentimes, but at least we have the capacity to feel the horror of sin, death, and pain in all it’s ugly glory. We still see the bright hope.

    This article does. While others may say “Life sucks, but there is HOPE,” C. Michael Patton is basically saying “Life REALLY sucks, but there is HOPE”

    Jesus isn’t a painkiller. He’s a healer. And a lot of times you need to get hurt more before you’re healed. Yes, the victory of the cross means joy and abundant life now, but there is suffering and sorrow along the way, even a lapse of temporal joy. The goal is “in sorrow, yet rejoicing” as Paul said, but just like the Psalmists we fail at the rejoicing part and are left with sorrow.

  22. So sorry to hear about your cousin, this is another blow against your struggle (more like a nuclear bomb actually). I am so sorry…

    I do believe that God wants us to be happy and joyful, I don’t think we can survive if all there is for us is pain and sorrow in this world. That would be cruel. I don’t care whatever theological justification anyone gives or verses quoted, it is just plain wrong. God is not that way. God uses pain and suffering as a means to reach us but He also uses pleasure and joy.

    I hope good things come your way, I hope God’s face will smile on you again. I hope He will talk to you like only He can and give you the reassurance you need that He is still here and He is not who you think He is.

  23. Whenever there is real suffering you can be sure that Job’s friends will show up with accusations.

    Stay encouraged, Michael. I thought this post by Tullian Tchividjian was powerful and it sounds timely

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2012/10/05/gloriously-ruined-tullian-tchividjian-on-suffering/

  24. ruben,

    You said:

    ‘I do believe that God wants us to be happy and joyful, I don’t think we can survive if all there is for us is pain and sorrow in this world.”

    Now certainly we can’t be happy and joyful all the time. because that would be a false kind of Christianity. However, agreeing with you, i think we very much have a lot more hope and encouragement in Christ than if we didn’t. And I think that is what real faith is all about,not our personal and subjective emotions.

    We have all been through bad things, if we have lived long enough, but that is not the point of Christianity. Despite all that we must give folks something other than our poor me type stuff, based on Christ’s faithfulness, and his ultimate love, hope and redemption for mankind. If we can’t we’re no better than the secular folks.

    And I say from a position of pain right now myself.

  25. I saw that interview over on Patheos Lisa and it resonated so powerfully with me I purchased the book.

  26. I think this post is coming from depression more than anything else and depression only sees dark and sadness. I know it because i fight against it myself, it is a state of mind that is devoid of God’s prescence. It is a loss of self, loss of hope. It is funny because depression will use theology or anything else to reinforce its hold

  27. “It is funny because depression will use theology or anything else to reinforce its hold”

    That’s very insightful and something that I will remember. I was healed from dark depression about 10 years ago, I still get melancholy as it is part of my personality but not the depression. That’s a tough demon to wrangle for sure.

  28. Sorry – I am about a week late on this.

    Thinking and praying for you.

  29. I love this. The things you share are real, raw and honest. it reminds me of the Psalms. To me this kind of sharing is like speaking your testimony, and sharing testimony is to me is one of the greatest faith builders. Thank you

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