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“A Fate worse than death”; how often have I said those words. Sometimes I’ve used them loosely, other times I’ve meant them quite literally.

Sometimes I marvel as something really awful happens to someone and people remark “they are lucky to still be alive”. There are some circumstances and situations in this life where, if they happened to me, I feel confident to say I would NOT consider myself lucky to still be alive.

Perhaps the difference between me and someone who would say “that person is lucky to be alive” would be what we consider the alternative. Perhaps a factor that comes into play is ones belief as to what happens when this life ends.

Admittedly there is the reality that we never want to lose a loved one to death, not so much for their sake, but for our sake. When they leave us behind we hurt, and we miss them terribly. I know—I’ve experienced it, too.

But as for the topic of an afterlife–I don’t know about you, but I’ve contemplated on it since childhood. I really don’t know why it’s been important to me, but apparently it has been. I was raised to believe in the Biblical Heaven. I have memories of lying on my bed, as a young kid, trying to imagine what it would feel like to move about in Heaven in a disembodied state. I also tried to imagine what we would do, and how we would think and feel.

Based upon the many books that have come out over the past couple decades detailing near death experiences, I know I’m not the only one wanted to know more about Heaven, or for that matter, if there actually is a Heaven. I read one, a top seller almost two decades ago; one my dad read and then recommended to me. I found some of the authors claim’s rather troublesome, and therefore difficult to believe. More recently I read “To Heaven and Back” by Mary C Neal; a book detailing her personal near death experience. I found this to read a lot more plausible than the previously read book. I’ve read bits and parts of a few other books and some blog stories of near death experiences.  I find some of it all to be a little questionable due to details that are conflicting. I think if they all contained “the gospel truth” then they wouldn’t conflict.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there are near death experiences. In fact, I have two relatives, that I’ve known personally, who each claim to have had a near death experience.

My great grandfather kept pretty quiet about his near death experience, but he did share of it with my mother. His experience was pretty simple: he left his body, crossed to the “other side” (so to speak), was informed it was not his time so he needed to return to earth, which he did, and that was that.

Several years ago I took a night class. A young pregnant woman, about my age, was also in the class. Some months later she and I crossed paths outside the local WIC office, and spoke briefly. I asked how she was doing, commented on her baby, and she shared with me that she had “died” giving birth. Initially I thought she was speaking metaphorically, as my childbirth experiences had both been “killer”. It was when she said “no, I really died, my heart stopped” I realized she was serious. I was caught off guard so didn’t quite know how to respond, which may have created an awkward moment. As we were standing outside she said she’d best get in out of the cold. We said “good-by” and I have mentally kicked myself many times since, as I missed a wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand what she had experienced.  I wish I could have that moment back.

It was a few years later I learned my 3rd cousin had recently died on an operating table. When I had the chance to talk to her, I didn’t know how to go about asking about her experience without being blunt.  I’d hoped the topic would come up in conversation, but it didn’t. If I had the opportunity now, (as opposed to almost 15 years ago) I’d likely boldly press forward with my questions. But due to my reticence, at that time, I have to rely on the relatives she did share her story with. They tell me she crossed over, was met by her grandfather, my great uncle, and was told her mission in life was not through and she was to go back—which she did.

In more recent years I’ve crossed paths with those who try to “explain” how near death experiences are not so. They “explain” other means whereby the person could think or believe this happened when it did not. These same people also tell me there is no life after this life. Despite their explanations, I do believe we live after this life.

Greg Laurie, in his book “As It Is In Heaven” says: “Remember that Jesus said to the thief on the cross, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’. (Lk. 23:43 emphasis added) Paul, who was converted through an encounter with the risen Christ, told the Philippians, ‘My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better’ (Phil. 1:23). He didn’t say, ‘I’ am going to depart and then go into a state of suspended animation or soul sleep or Purgatory or have a stopover in Detroit,’ or something like that! No. He says, ‘I will depart and be with Christ’. “

He, Greg Laurie, refers to this life is the warm up act for life beyond this life. Through the experiences of real people, we see how some people view this life as the only chance there is to do, see and experience everything the heart desires. He helps remind us this life is only a short period compared to eternity.

I think it’s the belief that this life is our one and only shot at existence that motivates some people to believe that a person is “lucky to still be alive”, when their condition is such that, in my opinion, death would be a blessed relief for them.

A couple years ago I discovered the works of author, Randy Alcorn; a man who is well versed in the Bible; with a passion for the topic of Heaven.   He affords in-depth, comprehensive teachings pertaining to Heaven; sharing great Biblically based insights. Before I read from his book titled “Heaven” followed up by listening to a DVD recording of a seminar he did on the topic, I had no idea there was so much information available regarding what we can look forward to in life after this life.

What I learned filled me with great anticipation. In turn this has helped me in my daily life as I try to weigh what is happening in life against eternity. Remembering that the struggles, disappointments and frustrations of today will pass as opposed to the joys of eternity which last forever, helps bring what happens now into perspective.

Quoting from Randy Alcorn: “Maybe you feel as if you’ve passed your peak, physically or emotionally and that your best opportunities are behind you. Perhaps you’re burdened, discouraged, depressed, or even traumatized. Perhaps your dreams—your marriage, career, or ambitions—have crumbled. Perhaps you’ve become cynical or have lost hope.

An understanding of the true Christian teaching about Heaven (not the popular caricatures of Heaven) can change all that. That’s why I wrote “Heaven”, a full length treatment of the subject that deals with all the questions people ask about this great subject.”

For more resources from him go to:  www.epm.org

So, while I am not in a hurry to leave this life (at least most days), when I use the phrase “that would be a fate worse than death”, I don’t always say it just to be glib. I truly believe experiencing Heaven will be wonderful; both intermediate Heaven as well as this earth once it is restored again into Paradise.

Thus it is I thank God, from the depth of my soul, for what Jesus did for me– for us; that which we could not do for ourselves;  that which allows us to be welcomed to Heaven to dwell eternally in the presence of God. I can honestly and truly say there are moments I long for it; I look forward with anticipation to experience eternity in Heaven with those I have come to love in this life. I look forward to meeting you there!