The 2010 film “Extraordinary Measures” depicts John and Aileen Crowley’s heroic efforts to find a cure for their two children who suffer from a rare and deadly genetic disorder. In one heart-wrenching scene, their oldest child experiences an exacerbation so bad that it brings her to the brink of death. With no treatment options remaining on the table, the Crowleys can do nothing but wait. Attempting to comfort them, a doctor tells them that they could try to look at their daughter’s seemingly imminent death as a blessing because their daughter would not need to suffer any more. As any parent can imagine, the proposal was less than satisfying to the Crowleys.
People often try to domesticate death. They try to tell themselves that the death was in some way a blessing or that their loved one continues to live in their hearts or that they can still talk with their loved one even if he or she cannot talk back.
Such attempts are understandable. Without God, the best we can hope to do for ourselves is domesticate death. However, such attempts more often than not rob us of the grief we need to express. We need honesty when it comes to death. Yet without God, a sober look at death would undue us. Life would seem not worth living.
But with God we can face death head on. We can confess the unnaturalness of death. God’s original design, which sin and evil have deformed, did not include death. Therefore, we can truly mourn over the death as something that ought not be. The pain and sorrow make sense as a tragic intrusion on God’s good, original created order.
Yet, with God we can do much more than make sense out of the pain. God would not have allowed human sinfulness to birth death if he did not plan to use death to bring about his glory. When Jesus, the Son of God, entered this world, he took on our nature. He became like us in every way, except for sin. Because he never sinned, he did not deserve to die. But, because he died for our sin in the way he did, his death destroyed the curse of death over every man and woman who trusts in his vicarious death. The intrusion of death paved the way for God to show his unending and all-enduring love for his children.
For the Christian, death is not the final blow. We lament our loss while joyously celebrating Christ’s vicarious victory over death.