rebelling against low expectations

Why Teens Should Think About Death More

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I wish people thought about death more. I think it would change the world.

Hang on, stick with me. It’s just that this weekend, I witnessed a car accident. I was almost in a car accident. I also grieved the death of a family friend in a skiing accident. And I experienced the fragility of the human body, dealing with unusual brain swelling and lung issues. I’m twenty – we aren’t supposed to have those issues.

Of course, as some of you know, those issues aren’t new to me. I first became chronically ill when I was freshly fourteen. When I was fifteen, I was given a month to live. And since then, it has been a daily battle to fight for my life and my functioning and my health. I wish I could somehow communicate the magnitude of the previous sentence.

Most of us young adults live like we’re invincible. But death happens. I am acutely, constantly aware of that fact. Life is short. Accidents happen. People die.

People die.

Living Risky

Sometimes, my acute awareness of our mortality makes me want to live risky. Because my life was so very nearly cut short, I want to fill every moment to the fullest. I want to say yes. I want to explore and adventure and embarrass myself and stay up until 2am writing to you against my better judgment because in view of death, what really matters? That sounds cliché, but to this girl, it’s not. It is reality. Harsh, unbendable reality.

Death happens.

Knowing that makes me want to live risky because I also know that my life is in God’s hands. He has total control over the length of my life, and I’ve already seen this. Outside of His plan, I should be dead.

Not living. Not writing. Not part of your life.

Living Safely

Yet, as the reality of our mortality — my mortality — is at the forefront of my mind, sometimes I don’t want to take risks. Instead I want to hide in the arms of someone safe.

I have legitimately tasted death and it hurt. It is a cloud and a memory I continually battle, day in and day out. The world is big and hard, and that makes me want to withdraw into a bubble and be protected by someone trustworthy.

The desire to live life to the fullest and to live it to the safest war in my heart. Do you relate?

The desire to live life to the fullest and to live it to the safest war in my heart. Do you relate? Click To Tweet

“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before You.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah”
(Psalm 39:4-5)

Living in the Tension

Maybe the desires for both risk and safety are right.

My awareness of my limits means I want to push them and fill my life with meaningful things. It means I want to step into hard, scary things trusting fully that my life is in God’s hands. If He calls me to risky things, I want to obey and step into them despite — and perhaps because of — my familiarity with my mortality. And my desire for safety and protection is what compels me to draw near to Christ, who is my rock and my place of safety (Psalm 18:2).

Yes, the risk must go hand-in-hand with intention and wisdom. Death, because we think we are invincible, feels so hopeless to accept. It’s not hopeless, but to watch so many go through life without considering their fragility is heartbreaking to me. The knowledge of our fleetingness should instill both courage to make the most of every moment and yet wisdom to live and die with intention.

The knowledge of our fleetingness should instill both courage to make the most of every moment and yet wisdom to live and die with intention. Click To Tweet

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12)

Eternity is Serious

Death happens. If more people truly understood that, it would change the world.

If people were actually aware of their mortality, beyond just a head knowledge, they would consider their eternity. If we truly thought about death and the realities and ramifications of that, as Christians it would change the way we interact with every person we come across. We would be so helped in prioritizing eternity and courageously helping others consider the gospel and death and what comes after.

Yet the enemy simply distracts and numbs us. I see two things happening at the same time.

On the one hand, our culture is obsessed with death — and honestly, that’s disturbing. Sometimes I shy away from talking about death, thinking I’ll be seen as overdramatic. I want to change that. A culture obsessed with death I think is twisted. And on the other hand, our culture is indifferent to death. A culture indifferent to death or afraid to consider it . . . is in deep danger. When death is not something that is deeply thought on, things like suicide and abortion make more sense and become more prevalent.

Death is serious. Eternity is serious. And a good understanding of death is something that can lead to living so much life in a powerful and fulfilling and zest-filled way.

So, let’s think and talk more about death. Let’s think and talk more about life!

Let me tell you my story — my whole story — and you tell me yours. My story involves death and near death. Even today I had to battle fight and flight and battle the lasting deep scars that still harm me from that experience. But tonight, I am incredibly thankful for the things I began to understand through that experience.

Death has helped me understand and live life so much . . . more.


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About the author

Sara Willoughby

is the 20-year-old author of He's Making Diamonds: A Teen's Thoughts on Faith Through Chronic Illness. She loves to read, write, and have adventures, be it off to Narnia one more time, wading through mud chasing the family dog, or playing a new board game with her two younger siblings. Sara is also a Lymie, TCK, and Bright Lights leader. You can find her at sgwilloughby.com

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