Afraid to die – yet afraid to live

18 months ago I realised I was terrified of dying. The circumstances are not important but when confronted with my mortality I discovered that I was not ready to die and it really shook my faith. I thought if, when all is said and done, I’m this afraid of dying then is my faith real. 

In the three words ‘I’m not ready’ I discovered I was still trying to get rid of my weaknesses before I met God, still trying to earn His approval, still trying to be ‘ready’ to meet Him. 

God has graciously helped me to see and begin to accept my failures and weakness – to understand that the ten commandments do not show me what I should be like but reveal what I am – an idolater, a liar, a murderer, an adulterer, a thief and a coveter! He has helped me see that I will never be ‘ready’. I will always be found half dressed with no make-up – always in a state of unpreparedness. 

He has helped me see that my only hope in death is solely the One who has gone through death before me and for me and who is waiting on the other side. 

Today I am less afraid of death though not perfectly so, as my love, hope and faith are not perfect.

But now I have discovered that just as great as my fear of death is my fear of living. 

To live for God is to embrace a life of serving, to give up personal glory for His to put the needs and rights of others always before myself. To live is therefore to suffer and if I’m really honest in the depth of my heart I don’t want pain or suffering I prefer ease and comfort. I’m afraid of truly living because deep down I’m afraid of pain, afraid what God might ask me to give, how far he might call me to suffer. 

And so I find myself paralysed between two fears. Afraid of dying and yet afraid of  living. Stuck in the void of safe living – the living that is for today. 

But there is a 3rd fear. Fear of the Lord is the spirit of sonship. Isaiah reminds us Jesus not only had a spirit which feared the Lord but that it was His delight – a single minded desire to glorify the Father. 

 Radical discipleship abandons both fear of dying and fear of living in exchange for fear of God. It is this which liberates us from captivity and empowers and strengthens us in our weakness. This fear becomes our joy and peace. 

‘And he will delight in the fear of the Lord’

I’m increasingly believing that deep down -mostly on a subconscious level – many of us are afraid of dying or afraid of living or both! 

Afraid of dying we throw ourselves into the’ activity of living’ but lacking deep assurance and acceptance we are often living to ourselves and not for God. Afraid of the unknown we paddle round the safe edges of true living afraid to plunge into deep waters where we are not in control. 

If we can all help each other to face our deep fears in a place of safety, free from judgement or condemnation and encourage each other to exchange these fears for the fear of God then we won’t just find freedom and peace but will be transformed to the increasing likeness of Christ. 


Heather Acheson

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