Living Faithfully in a Suffering Averse Age: A seminar from the 2017 Presbyterian Church of Queensland Assembly

The Gospel In Society Today Committee presented two workshops unpacking some of the implications of our white papers at the 2017 PCQ Assembly.

In this seminar we speak about how to live faithfully in an age that seeks to not just minimise pain and suffering but to avoid it all together — not just in our own lives, but as others suffer and grieve. The good life, we’re told, is one of pleasure, without pain, not one of hope through pain and suffering. This seminar unpacks our paper on the Gospel and Humanity, and features stories of suffering from several leaders of our churches.

This is a video of the seminar. The GIST committee is happy to help churches in PCQ find ways to use this paper, or the content of the seminar, to help meet our committee’s two purposes, to:

a) live faithfully for Jesus in a secular society and
b) engage in gospel-hearted apologetics that point to the great hope we have in Jesus.

Living and dying well in Jesus

How will we cope with dying? Many voices now say that euthanasia is the way to die well. Michelle Taylor is a member at Caloundra Presbyterian Church who suffers from a rare, terminal illness. Hear Michelle talk about ‘dying well’ – trusting and hoping in Jesus who loves her.

Talking to kids about death

‘I don’t want to die!’

A four-year old glare. My heart sinks. No, this child is not in imminent danger of death that I know of, but he is tired and it is bed time. Something has happened in his world that requires another conversation about death. When do we ever fathom death and all it means for us and those we love? Not at five, nor fifty-five. How can we go to sleep in the dark, all by ourselves when there is death in our world?

‘Why don’t you want to die?’

‘I don’t want to go to Jesus!’

Of course not. You are little and you want to stay here, where it is familiar and safe. But death breaks all of that for us, no matter our age. We aren’t in charge of our lives. Death is our enemy for so many reasons.

‘Why don’t you want to go to Jesus?’

Silent fury.

A prayer for wisdom. Quite a lot of wisdom, please.

‘What do you think Jesus will do when he sees you?’

‘He’ll tell me to go away because he thinks I’m naughty!’

Ah, so we’re still processing the difficult conversation with the person who decided this boy needed to hear about how he was going to hell, without first asking him whether he trusts Jesus. Death is terrifying if you aren’t welcome in heaven.

‘That’s a bit of a problem. I wonder if Jesus has done anything about our naughty things?’

Silence.

‘Do you think that when Jesus died on the cross he died for your naughty things as well as mine?’

Nodding.

‘So do you think Jesus is still mad about our naughty things?’

Big eyes.

‘I wonder if Jesus died on purpose for all those bad things? The Bible says that Jesus did die for all our wrong things on purpose. He did that because he loves us. Did you know he loved us even before he died for us? Even while he was dying on the cross?’

‘Jesus loves us all the time?’

‘Jesus isn’t going to tell you to go away if you trust him for your naughty things. Do you know what he might do?’

‘What?’

‘He’ll smile at you.’

An attempt to make concrete the genuine welcome we have in heaven; the unrelenting love our of Saviour for us. His love for us makes all the difference. We can die when we know we have a Saviour who is bigger than death itself, and whose love for us is stronger than death.

‘Did you know that when you die, Jesus holds onto you the whole time? He doesn’t let you go even for a second. He is stronger than me or Daddy. He is bigger than death. When Mummy or Daddy die, we’ll need Jesus to hold onto us the whole time. Death is too big for us.’

Tears falling. I’ve introduced the possibility of other people dying: precious people. Death is utterly heartbreaking. The last great enemy indeed.

‘Jesus is the way to heaven. He takes us there. He holds onto us and doesn’t let us go and he brings us to his special home. We are safe, even though we are dead because Jesus doesn’t ever let go of us. No-one and nothing can make him let go. Not even death. And he won’t let go, because he loves us.’

‘I don’t want to die!’

No hot anger now. Sorrow. Sadness that will tinge all of life because we live on this earth as mortals with death and all its companions: fear, pain, anxiety.

‘I know. No-one wants to die. It isn’t how God made us. He made us to live and sing and speak and dance and rejoice with him. One day we’ll be in Jesus’ heaven where there is no more death ever again. And no more naughty things. Ever again.’

Sobbing.

‘What do you think you’ll do when you die and Jesus smiles at you?’

Quiet. Receding sobs. Ear-splitting grin.

‘I’ll smile back’.

I pray he always trusts his mighty, loving Saviour as reflexively.