Scared to Death

 

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From Camberley Mosque, UK

My first experience with death was in High School. Until then, it was not very personal. I had never attended funerals at all. I didn’t really think much about death or that life was going to have to end at one point or another. Many of you know I lived a fairly sheltered life. Our family moved around a lot when I was growing up. Several of my relatives passed away when I was very young (less than four years old) or were living in another country, so I did not get to have a relationship with them.

All of that changed when my grandmother passed away. She had heart issues but was in her late 50’s, so her death was unexpected and sudden. My grandparents had been living with us for a few years prior to moving out to a small home, so this was a relatively close relationship. Her death hit me very hard.

It wasn’t because I missed her or was upset about her death (sounds callous, I know). It was mainly because as a selfish teenager, all of a sudden it became about ME. I realized I didn’t know what to expect when I died. What did the Quran say about death? I knew there were angels on my right and left shoulder who noted my good and bad deeds to report them to Allah, but apart from that, I didn’t know.

When I was a little girl, I was told that when you sleep at night, your soul dies a little death and that God will return your soul to you in the morning if He wills it. This was also a pretty scary thing to consider as a small Muslim child. Here in the West, children are worried about the monsters hiding in their closet, but for the Muslims, you actually died at night!

From the Quran (al An’aam 6:60)

“It is He, Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day”

Interpretation – Hadith Al Bukhaari, 7474

 

It was narrated from Abu Qataadah (may Allah be pleased with him) that when they slept and missed the prayer, the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Verily Allah took your souls when He willed, and He returned them when He willed.”

When I asked my father, he replied that Muslims believed that Allah does indeed take into account the good and bad deeds and that all Muslims work towards increasing the balance of the good deeds so that the scales will tip in their favor. This led me to even more questions: how do you know how much each good and bad deed is worth? Are they all weighed the same? It can’t be! Isn’t murder worth more than a lie? What about a lie to my parents versus a lie to an unbeliever? Are they the same? Does one have a higher penalty than the other?

Muslims have no answers to those questions! There is no assurance of salvation, no pardon, nothing to rely on. You have to believe that Allah is most merciful and that He will tip the balance for you, but then again, the Quran says that Allah can change His mind — how do you know for sure?

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This is where the relief for me came in. It took another 20 years for me to come to Christ and the Holy Spirit showed me that indeed, I was a horrible Muslim. I tried to pray five times a day, but didn’t (meetings at work, luncheons, appointments, you name it). I tried to fast, but couldn’t (meetings at work, luncheons, migraine headaches, etc). I tried to give alms on a regular basis and did pretty well at that. Overall, I fell short of even meeting the checklist for the five pillars of faith (see my post on fasting). I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that these things were not going to get me to heaven. Only ONE thing could do that for me and that was Christ.

In John 14, Jesus speaks to His disciples and tells them not to worry.  He says:

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in Goda ; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus the Way to the Father

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really know me, you will know b my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

What comforting words! He does not promise that we will prosper here on earth. He doesn’t tell us to do five, ten or fifteen things on a checklist. He says He is the way and we can come through Him. He says “get to know me.” He says He will come back and take us. We don’t even have to look for a way or find it on our own. We don’t have to do anything other than accept Christ for who He is: the way, the truth and the life. He is the WAY to God. He is the TRUTH that so many are searching for and He is preparing a home for us to live in… not to die in, but to live.

In Matthew 22:32, Jesus talks to the Sadducees (Jewish priests) and says “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

In Christ, we only have the shadow of death (Psalm 23). We pass from life here into eternal life with Him. Matthew 4:16 says “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” 

What a joy and a relief for me on the day that I realized I did not have to sit in the shadow of death. I didn’t have to worry about what would happen to me, for the great light of Christ shined upon me! What a comfort to know – truly know that what God had planned from creation was going to be set right in Christ. He does truly love us and knows us by name. He will come and bring us back to be with Him. He promises this.

No Muslim (or anyone else) has this assurance! When I became a Christian, I asked my first Bible Study group why they weren’t shouting about this from the rooftops? What an amazing burden to be lifted off of me. I was scared to death of death and dying! I had nights where I found I couldn’t sleep. Before I had my first C-Section (my first surgery), I really thought that I might have to go and have my scales be weighed in front of God. I knew I was going to the “escalator down.” There’s no way, I would be admitted into heaven based on what I had done (or not done in my case).

Why hide this from others? Why not share what Christ has done for you? Do you have this assurance or do you still worry about where you are going when you die? If you are in Christ and you know Him, then you know the way, the truth and will have eternal life TODAY.

I Hope…

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What is Hope? What do we Hope for? What happens if we lose Hope?

The first week of Advent revolves around Hope. Merriam Webster defines it as:

HOPE: to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true

Frankly, this is a strange definition. For me, hope is the blessing of a new day. It’s the love of a family and the presence of peace in my home. It’s knowing that no matter what, with God’s help, all will be well- even if everything in my life is topsy-turvy.

When I became a new Christian, the hope I found in Christ was like nothing I had experienced. For this reason in the Bible, hope is mentioned in conjunction with God. There are several verses that talk about the hope we have in Christ. We are called to one body, one Spirit, one Hope (Eph 4:4). Faith is also linked to Hope. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see (Heb 11:1).

As a Muslim, I did have hope. It was set squarely in my own abilities and in my parents. I believed that my own good works and the good reputation of my family would be enough to carry me along my whole life. Very quickly, that deteriorated. I realized that was a childish attitude and that I had more desire to fulfill my own selfish needs than to help others. I still believed I was a good person, because I didn’t understand God’s absolute holy nature and that I could not earn my way into His favor.  Throwing some change into the red Salvation Army bucket solidified the thought that I was such a nice person.  I chose to place all the hope I had in myself.

As an immigrant, the American Dream played right into my hopes and those of my parents. This is a country like no other. If you try hard enough, you can make your own future, your own piece of heaven, your own peace and freedom. As a driven person, I almost burnt myself out on my career. I created competition between my husband and I (my career is better than yours) and I ignored the needs of my children. At the same time, I was raising quickly up the corporate ladder. I was loved and adored at work but at home, I had a great deal of sadness. My hopes and dreams were being fulfilled but there was an empty void. This wasn’t quite what I had envisioned. Maybe if I had more titles, money, prestige, I would be better.

It took me several more years until I realized that hope shouldn’t be in myself or in others. When I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, there was an immediate sense of relief. God wants you drop your burdens at His feet and to come to him as you are. You don’t have to wait until you are an executive, or until you have met certain goals or a rank. In fact, he says “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matt 5:5).” That is so backwards from what the world says. I think that’s why it stays in your brain as a kernel of truth that distrupts thought.

So it makes sense that the first week of Advent is to light the candle of HOPE. It belongs to Christ. We cannot lose it when he holds it secure. We can run to him for the hope that shines like a beacon in the dark. Hope beckons us in turbulent times, when the waves of life come crashing down upon us causing us to slip and be tossed about on waves like infants(Eph 4:14).

Have you  lost hope? Have you looked for for it? Have you found it in Christ? This is the time when we can confidently approach the throne of God and find all our hopes and dreams at Jesus Christ’s feet, for our treasures are stored up in heaven.
~We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain… Hebrews 6:19