Sometimes you read a book that touches on thoughts and themes that have been growing in your own life since childhood. It’s as if the author had access to your experiences and then wrote a book that was almost custom-designed to address your concerns and caveats. But there’s even more: explanations and insights that make your understanding of something three-dimensional. It’s a wonderful thing. That was my experience with Matthew McCullough’s Remember Death.
There are so many things I could say about this book in summary, but here are three major areas of insight for me.
- We’ve become masters of avoiding the subject of death. Death is still as present in humanity as it ever was, but we do all we can to not think about it. Part of this is due to the rising quality of medical care, part of it to materialism, part of it to the ancient fear of death itself. And this mastering of avoidance is actually hurting us. It distances us from the gospel and God’s great promises, which are the loudest in the presence of death. “Death has lost its sting” doesn’t mean much to us if we’ve forgotten about the sting: the biting truth that all we have in this world is fading and falling apart.
- Thinking about death is a necessity if we want to understand the world we live in and the God we serve. Though we know the platitude “nothing lasts forever,” we don’t actually live as if this were true. We hinge our hopes on things that pass away. And when we do that, we lose focus. We drift. We blind ourselves to the way things really are. And we’re also blinding ourselves to the nature of the eternal God who’s called us into fellowship with himself. By God’s amazing grace, death is an invitation into unending relationship. Casting aside that relationship in the present for things that are passing away is a deep but common tragedy.
- There is actually profound hope in thinking about death. We avoid the thought so much, but maybe that’s a sign that we’re clinging to things that aren’t going to last forever. When we can see the problem of death in the ordinary brokenness of everyday life, then we can treasure the promise of life in the extraordinary promises of the God of life.
What I Loved
So many words moved me and nudged my mind in this book, but here are my favorites from the Introduction. I’ll invite you to discover the rest on your own.
- “Death is still inevitable, but it has become bizarre” (19).
- “Teach me to live with the reality of my death so that I can live in the gladness of your love” (21).
- “When the reality of death is far from our minds, the promises of Jesus often seem detached from our lives. These promises seem abstract, belonging to another world from the one I’m living in, disconnected from the problems that dominate my field of view” (23).
- “As long as we’re consumed by the quest for more out of this life, Jesus’s promises will always seem otherworldly to us. He doesn’t offer more of what death will only steal from us in the end. He offers us righteousness, adoption, God-honoring purpose, eternal life—things that taste sweet to us only when death is a regular companion” (25).
What I would’ve Liked
Could the book be improved? I didn’t see much that needed more attention or development. No red flags. Honestly, this book should be required reading for every biblically-minded Christian.
Should you read the book?
Yes!! This was such a refreshing take on a topic that gets lost on us. I’ve battled thoughts of death ever since I lost my father to cancer when I was 18. I’ve longed for someone to write about this in a hope-filled, God-honoring way, and McCullough has done it. Please . . . read the book.
Note: This post contains affiliate links.