“A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”
How is the day of her death better than her birthday? After all, we celebrate birthdays, not “death-days.” A valued friend eloquently and aptly described the day of his daughter’s death: “This stinks!” It was a day of loss and a day of tears; at times the grief was agonizing. A daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a special friend would no longer tease us nor we tease her. For the first time she was actually gone; not to another town to be seen at another time or called on a special occasion. She was gone, never to be heard from or touched in this life again! It was not a day of celebration! Or was it?
Life is a tremendous challenge—often a tragedy; it is demanding, stressful and the realities of human frailty and death abound. Sorrow is as much a part of life as is joy. Nonetheless, it is through sorrow that we discover the depth of our faith and convictions of the heart. Struggle and sorrow can improve our lives (7:2-3) and bring a celebration!
At birth, I was totally dependent upon my family. I had no history, no one knew me. I had not become known for anything and knew nothing—no name, i.e., reputation (7:1a). Growing up took me through the early years of innocence to the years of exploration, and face to face with human selfishness—often exhibited by greed for power and position. The loss of friends to accident and suicide forced me to face mortality. More failures than successes have dotted the journey of my life, and there is no doubt that disappointment of one kind or another will never be too far off (7:4). Sometimes life really “stinks.” However, these struggles and sorrows (times of mourning, 7:2, 4) helped me to see my greatest needs and forced me to commit to beliefs and values. I had to grow up and take responsibility for my actions. Sober reflection, rather than anger (7:9), should be the consequence of sorrow and suffering and the pathway to a more meaningful life (7:3; 1 Peter 1:6-9); it makes the “end of a matter better than its beginning” (7:8).
In my seventeenth year, I accepted Christ as my Savior and Guide. This was the watershed moment of my life. From that moment to this, I have gained a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the Lord’s person and purpose. There is no one and nothing that surpasses his greatness. He saved my soul, brought me into a deeper fellowship with him (Hebrews 12: 1-13), and gave me a greater appreciation of life, its challenges, and its wonder. Should Alzheimer’s one day steal my memories, still God will remember me. I came into the world with nothing; I will leave it full of faith and spiritual wealth (Ephesians 2:4-10), and with an inheritance that is imperishable and waiting for me in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-5). He is the Alpha and Omega, the one who makes certain that the end of life is always better than its beginning.
David writes “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). It pleases the Lord to see his children’s struggles through life finally come to a close. His work of redemption in the believer is one step closer to completion (resurrection of the body remains), the cruel effects of sin are overcome, and fellowship in the presence of God is achieved. Acceptance of Christ as Savior makes what was uncertain at birth (salvation), a certainty at death. Faith identifies a person with the Lord, builds a solid name or reputation, and ensures that one’s death will be better than the day of one’s birth. In this sense, one’s “death-day,” though painful, is also a celebration.
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