Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
- John Donne, “Holy Sonnet X”
“Death, be not proud…" John Donne’s centuries-old words came unbidden when we got the news of Scott’s grandmother’s passing this week. They’ve become a comfort to me when death provokes a primeval outrage deep within that screams, “This should not be.” Instead of stifling this outrage, I’ve learned to keep space for it as something sacred. I stand with the One, who is Resurrection and Life, weeping at a graveside. For, as those who affirm the Bible’s story of Redemption, death should not be. Death, suffering, separation, and pain. Sorrow, injustice, division, strife - they should not be.
And this is where we collide with weighty, glorious hope. They should not be, and they will not be. The hope Christianity offers is not that of escaping away from a broken earth, of detaching from corrupt physicality into an ethereal spiritual reality and washing our hands of the place. The hope we are offered is of a King returning to claim His Kingdom, of that Kingdom come fully and permanently. It is of our broken-beautiful creation made new, restored, re-enlivened. It is a hope of the remaking of the cosmos - the corruption of sin demolished, justice finally complete, light exploding darkness, pain erased, sickness healed, death sealed in the grave.
This hope shapes my behavior today, as I boldly live in light of this future reality. And it allows me to stand in the face of suffering untempered, justice thwarted, in the face of our enemy, death, itself and declare: “Thou shalt die.” Thanks be to God.