Chapter 3: Fear of Dying Alone
As death approaches we can feel like a child in the dark. Shadows are scary, becoming imaginary monsters. Sounds seem to signal an intruder in our midst. Familiar bedroom objects are transformed into dangerous phantoms.
If we have experienced trauma, combat, or abuse, approaching death may jerk us back into that former reality with such force that it is difficult to know what is real and what is not. Our very faith may be shaken; thus the core of who we are may waver and threaten to dissolve. How important then to return to the foundation of our strength, to turn to the Scriptures which have helped past generations claim the living God as their Shield, their Rock, and their Fortress.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
Many of the psalm writers wrote of their trust in God and the assurance that God will never forsake us.
God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken
and mountains fall into the ocean depths;
even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence.
The prophet Isaiah assures us of God’s constant love and care.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one.
The LORD protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid.
Hear me, LORD, when I call to you! Be merciful and answer me!
When you said, “Come worship me,” I answered, “I will come, LORD.”
Don’t hide yourself from me!”
Don’t be angry with me; don’t turn your servant away.
You have been my help; don’t leave me, don’t abandon me,
O God, my savior.
My father and mother may abandon me, but the LORD will take care of me.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, because I come to you for safety.
In the shadow of your wings I find protection until the raging storms are over.
I call to God, the Most High, to God, who supplies my every need.
He will answer from heaven and save me; he will defeat my oppressors.
God will show me his constant love and faithfulness.
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer!
In despair and far from home I call to you!
Take me to a safe refuge, for you are my protector,
my strong defense against my enemies.
Let me live in your sanctuary all my life; let me find safety under your wings.
You have heard my promises, O God, and you have given me what belongs to those who honor you.
Whoever goes to the LORD for safety, whoever remains under the protection
of the Almighty, can say to him, “You are my defender and protector.
You are my God; in you I trust.”
God says, “I will save those who love me And will protect those who
acknowledge me as LORD. When they call to me, I will answer them;
when they are in trouble, I will be with them.
I will rescue them and honor them.”
When I was in trouble, I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
I look to the mountains; where will my help come from?
My help will come from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let you fall; your protector is always awake.
The protector of Israel never dozes or sleeps.
The LORD will guard you; he is by your side to protect you.
The sun will not hurt you during the day, nor the moon during the night.
The LORD will protect you from all danger; he will keep you safe.
He will protect you as you come and go now and forever.
LORD, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions.
Even before I speak, you already know what I will say.
You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power.
Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.
Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence?
If I went up to heaven, you would be there;
if I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there.
If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place
in the west, you would be there to lead me,
you would be there to help me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me
to turn into night, but even darkness is not dark for you,
and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful.
I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed,
carefully put together in my mother’s womb,
when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there —
you saw me before I was born.
The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book,
before any of them ever began.
O God, how difficult I find your thoughts; how many of them there are!
If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.
Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me.
Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
I will sing about your strength;
every morning I will sing aloud of your constant love.
You have been a refuge for me,
a shelter in my time of trouble.
I will praise you, my defender.
My refuge is God,
the God who loves me.
The LORD is faithful to his promises, and he is merciful in all his acts.
He helps those who are in trouble; he lifts those who have fallen.
The LORD is righteous in all he does, merciful in all his acts.
He is near to those who call to him, who call to him with sincerity.
He supplies the needs of those who honor him; he hears their cries and saves them.
The prophet Isaiah assures us of God’s constant love and care. God says,
“Do not be afraid – I am with you! I am your God – let nothing terrify you!”
Israel, the LORD who created you says,
“Do not be afraid — I will save you.
I have called you by name — you are mine.
When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you;
your troubles will not overwhelm you.
When you pass through fire, you will not be burned;
the hard trials that come will not hurt you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the holy God of Israel, who saves you.
Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God; he created all the world.
He never grows tired or weary. No one understands his thoughts.
He strengthens those who are weak and tired.
Even those who are young grow weak;
young people can fall exhausted.
But those who trust in the LORD for help
will find their strength renewed.
They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary;
they will walk and not grow weak.
Sing, heavens! Shout for joy, earth! Let the mountains burst into song!
The LORD will comfort his people; he will have pity on his suffering people.
But the people of Jerusalem said, “The LORD has abandoned us!
He has forgotten us.” So the LORD answers,
“Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore?
Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.
Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”
Readings from the New Testament
Jesus has promised to keep you in God the Father’s care. Jesus said:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me. What my Father has given me is greater than everything, and no one can snatch them away from the Father’s care. The Father and I are one.”
The apostle Paul assures us that God has sent the Holy Spirit to help us and that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
In the same way, the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will.
In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son — will he not also freely give us all things? Who will accuse God’s chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us! Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says, “For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below — there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Trust in God’s promise to be with you always.
God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.”
Claim the hope that is yours because of God’s great love for you.
So we who have found safety with him are greatly encouraged to hold firmly to the hope placed before us. We have this hope as an anchor for our lives. It is safe and sure.
Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.
Hebrews 6.18b,19a; 10.23
The peace that only God can give will comfort and sustain you.
God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.
Thoughts for Reflection
- When did I start feeling alone? What did I tell myself when I felt alone?How can I change my feelings into actions that express care for myself?
- Is there a reason that I feel I should be alone? If so, can I decide that as God’s child I can ask for the comfort of someone I trust?
- Am I willing to make a decision in faith that God is with me, even when I feel alone?
- Am I willing to share my sense of loneliness with God and one other person?
O Lord, my Lord, how often I forget you are at my side. My fear keeps me from your presence. Yet when I calm myself I remember your faithfulness, how you have always carried me even when I could not feel you near.
Forgive my loss of trust, renew a confident spirit within me. Help me feel your presence in the smallest act of kindness, in a gentle smile or a warm “hello.” Open my heart to be renewed in the joy of your peace and your presence. Amen.