Thoughts about Life and Death

One of our first year students has been off this last week. His brother, a police officer, was murdered as he chased away intruders to his home. Another student, a second year, returned to Fiwale yesterday after burying his granddaughter.

I don’t really know how to write about this.

From my western perspective, the returning students did not seem to be grieving. I’m sure part of it is that Zambians grieve differently to Westerners. But I suspect there is also a familiarity with death in this culture that anaesthetises people to the sanctity of life. At the other end of the spectrum, maybe my culture has made such an idol out of life on this earth that we cling to it obsessively.

I was reminded today that one of Jonathan Edward’s resolutions was to ‘to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.’ Reading that today seems quite disturbing and depressive, and I’m not entirely sure what the purpose would be. Certainly, to think often of the brevity of life brings about a profound shift in our perspective on life.

I’m grateful for the reminder around me here that life is fleeting, to make the most of everyday to honour Christ. But I also pray that we won’t become desensitised to the astonishing value that God places upon every single human life.

Can I also ask you to pray for our students and their families? Even now, some of the students have children with some serious illnesses. These dear children are uniquely known and loved by a heavenly Father who counts the hairs on their heads.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts about Life and Death

  1. Hi Tim, I became ‘mortal’ when my parents died. It’s not altogether a comfortable position, even when heaven is assured. I’m with Paul in that to die is gain but to live for the sake of others is needful. We should enjoy our youth as a gift from God and live for his glory. Age will come soon enough! Our Western expectations of a life ‘full of days’ are justified. Other cultures and war zones require people to adjust accordingly. African cultures have a greater sense of the corporate than us: family and tribal ancestry, the family of believers; so although they grieve (and more expressively than we do) there is less sense of total loss; people are gathered to their fathers and it’s seen as more than a metaphor. Not sure this is the whole story. Why don’t you ask your students about it? Blessings John

    1. Thanks John, really interesting thoughts. Yep the students definitely reflect a more corporate identity that has far-reaching implications and is very difficult for me to understand as it is a fundamental worldview difference. I feel like I can see the symptoms but not the root! I do think there’s a sense though in which my Western culture treats death as something that is not supposed to happen!

  2. Well written & thought provoking Tim, thanks!
    Continuing to pray for your protection out there & the work you are doing.
    Love Si & Jem

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