I was wondering if I could ask about something I have struggled with for a while. A few years ago I lost my aunt and then a little more than a year after that my father. I had never really lost anyone who was close to me before. I started to question God, his existence, the Bible as his word, and especially the after-life. My thinking was how could these two great people be lost ? Eventually I got past the feelings of doubting the existence of God and the Bible but I still struggled with doubting the after-life and wrestling with the fact that people have such a short time here and that decisions made in sometimes only a few short years effect their forever. Adding to this, a client of mine recently told me that she actually flatlined for about 8 minutes a few weeks ago. Her heart had completely stopped. She told me she simply blacked out she didn’t see angels, lights, God etc. It was if she was asleep and then when she was brought back just as if she awoke. This has also triggered some doubts about there being a heaven and hell. I am tempted to feel that maybe there is nothing and death is a complete ceasing to exist on every level similar to prior to being born. I know this isn’t biblical. But for some reason it seems rational and its as if my mind has made it true for me. I have prayed about it and am trying to get past it. I was wondering what insight you might have regarding this issue? I always appreciate your insights ! Thank you.
Thanks for writing. Your difficulty is certainly not an uncommon one. For us as human beings, death of loved ones is a struggle. Always. Jesus understands this. This is why he cried at the tomb of Lazarus—not because he was sad Lazarus died. Jesus understands the afterlife and, to him, death is not a tragedy, but for his friends Mary and Martha this was a tragedy, and thus Jesus wept.
Here is my thought. Does the death of human beings mean that God does not exist or that he does not love us? Were we intended to live eternally in these bodies? From God’s perspective, death is not tragic. Sin and the eternal consequences of sin is the real tragedy. I understand the emotions you are feeling, but, biblically, the fact that your neighbor is caught up in sin and going to hell should be more problematic that the fact that someone died, as physical death is a transition to another realm. Obviously, knowing this intellectually does not solve the emotional issue of death, but I think it might be helpful to you if you could stop to realize that the death of your aunt and your father is not a tragedy from God’s perspective at all. Death is a blessing for those who know him. Even for those who do not know him, death is not a bad thing or an evil thing or a tragic thing, if we have a heavenly/godly perspective. I do not say this to shame you or to call you out. Jesus certainly did not call out those who were weeping at Lazarus’ tomb.
About the fleeting nature of our physical lives, I have had the same feeling you are having many times. From a human perspective, a few dozen years evaporates into insignificance in light of eternity. Why would God let what happens to us in this short, ephemeral existence determine our eternal fate? I guess you will have to ask God about this. I cannot answer this question, but I know the answer has to do with God’s love for us. Nevertheless, I am absolutely convinced that there is an afterlife, although fleeting doubts flash through my brain often. Logically, eternity does not make sense. Logically, heaven cannot be real, as I have no physical proof of heaven. Yet, I believe, and I believe for very good reasons. I want to remind you of those reasons. Jesus was raised from the dead. This is a fact. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, walked on water, created bread and fish to feed 10,000, healed literally thousands and did many other acts that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his claims about himself are true. He fulfilled dozens of prophecies, some of which are so specific that to deny their fulfillment and the implications is not rational. The Bible is inspired and Jesus is who he said he is. All of these things, and there are many more I could mention, tell me without reservation that when Jesus tells us that he is going to prepare a place for us (John 14), it is true.
Daniel had dozens of the most specific conceivable prophecies, all of which came true to the smallest details (have you read Daniel, Prophet to the Nations, available at www.ipibooks.com?). Then Daniel tells us that we will be raised, some to eternal life and others to eternal destruction (Daniel 12:2-4). I have to believe him because he has proved everything he predicts comes to pass. Does this remove all doubt? NO!!! But when these doubts arise I simply go back to what I know 100.00% for sure, which is that Jesus lived a perfect life, performed many miracles, was killed and, as he had prophesied, was raised to life again. This is sufficient for me.
About the woman brought back to life, I have never given an iota of faith to these near death experiences. They are interesting, but they produce no reliable information. The fact that one woman had no such experience tells me nothing that I did not already know. This is not shocking at all, at least to me. Why should we expect to see lights, a tunnel and the like when our hearts stop? I do not know what will happen when we actually die, but such anecdotes provide no reliable information. People who rely on near-death experiences are treading on thin ice in my opinion.
So…. I, too, have doubts about life after death. Believe me, this comes into my mind fairly often, but then I am reminded of what I know 100% to be true (Jesus is who he said he is and the Bible is inspired by God), and I return to faith. And we must remember that faith involves things which we cannot see. This is what the ancients were commended for, and it is what God will commend you for (Hebrews 11:1-2).
I am sure this little response will not stop all doubts from entering your mind, but I hope it will give you some peace of mind. God is real, he sent his Son Jesus, and he will take us into eternal dwellings. I am confident in this, despite my doubts.