Fear of death

First published 26th March 2013

I remember looking down at my blood-soaked trainers and thinking Well. This isnt going very well.

I was given this passage in Lamentations to write something about:

"He knocked me from the path and ripped me to pieces. When he finished, there was nothing left of me. He took out his bow and arrows and used me for target practice."

(Lamentations 3.1-18, The Message)

The rest of this amazing passage graphically describes a tough scenario; we get the impression Jeremiahs not in a good way. Very very not in a good way. The intense language he uses is so visceral; how it feels when everythings stripped from you and suddenly you can see only death and waste. What a great book! The Bible isnt full of pretty little trinkets of niceness after all. Who knew.

For me, although normally pampered and [relatively] well groomed, this passage brings to mind one time in my life when my comfortable bubble was popped and I found desolation around me. Without going into detail, the birth of my first kid was problematic and I found myself an onlooker in the middle of a room full of shouting doctors and nurses throwing kit to each other. Having watched two heart monitors sporadically flatline, I remember looking down at my blood-soaked trainers and thinking Well. This isnt going very well. not trying to be cool about it, I guess I was just numb.

Now, although my wife and daughter got through it and are now very healthy, what followed for me was a few years of processing a trauma, anger at God and a fear of powerlessness; a fear of death.

Desolation is something that Jeremiah puts across really well in Lamentations. Although my example was a walk in the park compared to what he witnessed, his description of this carnage makes sense. Its gross; its an ugly, comfort-shattering kick in the teeth. Its a relentless stretching of wits and hope that escalates and leaves you powerlessly re-thinking stuff which your pampered self had taken for granted. Like the ability to pray for anything, or faith itself. Brilliantly, there's no happy ending in Lamentations, it's just a standing headbutt.

Wesley put it: He has defeated all my methods and counsels for security I would add And it effing hurts.

But now look, forget all that, He does a new thing! I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that the tax collectors and uber-sinners got something right; they sought Jesus because they realised they needed saving most of all, well aware of their brokenness. When you've come to terms that your efforts are irrelevant and (as Eugene Peterson put it) all you've got is 'lostness, you can really start to see the benefit of foundness!! That's proper awesome.

Years later, having generously allowed God to deal with my trauma, the ongoing challenge for me is to remember that Im bland under my own power. Always in need of saving, always powerless, always nothing. And in the nothingness of myself, the wonderful, joyous everythingness of the Creator can be revealed like a bloody great slap in the face.

About the author

Sam Cavender

- Digital Media Officer for the Diocese of Bristol.

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