Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dying Young

What is the worst tragedy that could happen to a human? Is it dying young, or is there something worse that could happen? In his book, “Screwtape Letters,” author C.S. Lewis creates fictional correspondence between two devils: a senior, more experienced evil spirit named Screwtape; and his young, inexperienced understudy named Wormwood. In Screwtape’s “Letter No. 28,” Screwtape lays out for Wormwood why it is better, from the devil’s point of view, that humans be “kept safe” and be allowed to live as long as possible. According to Screwtape, middle age is an ideal time for temptation because a human might succumb to temptation through one of two forms: through despair, by reason of one’s self-determined failure; or comfort, if a man or woman achieves worldly success. With regard to the later temptation, Lewis says “…prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is “finding his place in it,” when really it is finding its place in him….You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.” Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 143. Had Micah lived a full life, would he have succumbed to the temptation to despair by reason of unfilled dreams? Or would he have been, in Lewis’s words, “knit to the world” because of worldly success? As much as we miss Micah in our home, we know that he is without the daily disappointments that accompany living on earth. Micah has been released from the thousands of heartaches, temptations and maladies he would have otherwise experienced on a daily basis had he lived a “full” life on earth. Instead, we are certain that Micah suffers no lack of joy now, in His presence. The Psalmist proclaims, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11. One of the blessings of Micah’s unexpected death has been the recurring emphasis to make Micah’s current joy my own joy. In other words, since Micah’s death has in no way diminished his opportunity to make the greatest possible joy (God) his own, we must seek to avoid the temptation to “make ourselves at home in the world” and instead do what we must in order to make God our greatest joy. The worst tragedy is not dying young; it is losing sight of Jesus, one’s greatest possible joy.

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