Resources | Comforts for Fears of the Dying Hour

You who are in Christ, who are true Christians, have hope in your end. And such a great hope that it may comfort you against all those fears which arise from the consideration of your dying hour.

Case 1: Some believers say, “The idea of death is uneasy to me because I don’t know what will happen to my family once I’m gone.”

Answer: The righteous has hope in his death, as to his family, as well as himself. Although you may have little at present to live upon, and though you have nothing to leave them, as was the case of that son of the prophets, who feared the Lord, and yet died in debt which he was unable to pay, as his poor widow represents (2 Kings 4:2); what you do have is a good Friend to leave them to — a covenant God to whom you may confidently commit them. The Lord says, “ I will protect the orphans who remain among you. Your widows, too, can depend on me for help” (Jer. 49:11).

The world can bear witness of examples of children of providence who by their pious parents have been cast upon and cared for by God’s providence. Moses is an eminent instance of this; though he was an outcast infant (Ex. 2:3) he became learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22) and became king in Jeshurun (Deut. 33:5). Should we not be ashamed that we have committed our eternal interests to Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, yet still do not confidently trust him with the concerns of our families?

Case 2: Death will take me away from my dear friends.

Answer: Ah, but death will take you to your best Friend, the Lord Christ! The friends you leave behind you, if they be indeed people of worth, you will meet again when they come to heaven, and then you will never be separated anymore. If death takes you away from the temple below, it will carry you to the temple above. It will indeed take you from the streams, but it will set you down by the fountain, the source itself. If it puts out your candle, it will carry you where there is no night, where there is an eternal day.

Case 3: I still have so much work to do regarding my relationship with Jesus — about my being a real Christian, whether I am truly regenerate — that I can’t imagine being able to die without some measure of fear and discomfort.

Answer: If it is thus with you, then double your diligence now to make your calling and election sure. Endeavor to grow in knowledge, and walk closely with God — be diligent in self-examination; and pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit, who helps you to know the things freely given you of God. If you are enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit to diligently face your spiritual concerns in this way, when the evening time of your life comes, it shall be light.

Many weak Christians indulge doubts and fears about their spiritual state, as if they placed at least some part of religion in their imprudent practice; but towards the end of life, they think and act in another manner. The traveler, who reckons that he has time to spare, may stand still debating with himself whether this or the other be the right way — but when the sun begins to set, he is forced to lay aside his scruples and resolutely to go forward in the road which he judges to be the right one, lest he lie all night in the open fields. Thus some Christians, who perplex themselves much throughout the course of their lives, with jealous doubts and fears, content themselves when they come to die with such evidences of the safety of their state as they could not be satisfied with before; and by disputing less against themselves, and believing more, court the peace they formerly rejected, and gain it too.

Case 4: I am under a sad decay, in respect of my spiritual condition.

Answer: Bodily consumptions may make death easy — but it is not so in spiritual decays. I will not say that a godly man cannot be easy in such a case, when he dies. David and Solomon fell under great spiritual decays; but before they died, they recovered their spiritual strength and vigor. However, exert yourselves without delay, to strengthen the things that remain — you will have less fear, having been awakened from spiritual sleep before death comes to your bedside — and you ought to lose no time, seeing you know not how soon death may seize you.

Case 5: It is terrible to think of the other world, that world of spirits, which I have so little acquaintance with.

Answer: Your best friend is Lord of that other world. After death, your soul becomes capable of converse with the blessed inhabitants of that other world. The spirit of each saint there now was once in the same position as your spirit is now. And as for the angels, however superior their nature in the rank of beings, yet our nature is dignified above theirs, in Christ, and they are all of them your Lord’s servants, and so your fellow servants.

Case 6: The sting of death is terrible.

Answer: Yet not nearly as terrible as the sting of conscience, caused by a piercing sense of guilt and apprehensions of divine wrath. Who would not endure bodily sickness, if it led to the soul’s becoming sound, and entirely whole? Each pang of death will set sin a step nearer the door; and with the last breath, the body of sin will breathe out its last. Take comfort: the pains of death will not last long; the Lord your God will not leave, but support you under them.

Case 7: But I am likely to be cut off in the midst of my days.

Answer: Do not complain; you will be the sooner at home — you thereby have the advantage of your fellow laborers, who were at work before you in the vineyard. God, in the course of his providence, hides some of his saints early in the grave, that they may be taken away from the evil to come. An early removal out of this world prevents much sin and misery. They have no grounds for complaint, those who get the residue of their years in Immanuel’s land. Surely you shall live as long as you have work cut our for you by God, to be done for him in this world — and when that is at an end, it is high time to be gone.

Case 8: I am afraid of sudden death.

Answer: The truth is, you may indeed die suddenly. The question is — will death find you watching for it, or will it catch you by surprise? “Keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42). But be not afraid, it is an inexpressible comfort, that death, whenever it comes, can never snatch you out of Christ’s hands; and therefore it can never seize you, as a jailor, to hurry you into the prison of hell. Sudden death may hasten and facilitate your passage to heaven, but can do you no harm if you are in Christ.

Case 9: I am afraid it will be my lot to die lacking the exercise of reason.

Answer: Again, this is distinct possibility for everyone. But what harm? There is no hazard in it, in regard to your eternal state — a disease at death may deprive you of your reason and presence of mind, but not of your faith! When a man, going on a long voyage, has put his affairs in order, and put all his goods aboard, he himself may be carried on board the ship sleeping — all is safe with him, even if he knows not where he is until he awakes in the ship. In the same way the godly man, who dies in this case, may die uncomfortable, but not unsafely.

Case 10: I am naturally fearful, and find myself terrified by the mere thought of death.

Answer: Here is the paradox — the less you think on death, the more frightful the thoughts of it will be. So make it familiar to you by frequently meditating upon it; quiet your fear by leaning into it. Look at the white and bright side of the cloud — take faith’s view of heaven; so shall you see hope in your death. Be duly affected with the body of sin and death, the frequent interruptions of your communion with God, and with the glory which dwells on the other side of death — this will contribute much to remove slavish fear.

“we are only ready for heaven when our heart is there before us”

It is a pity that believers should be so fond of this life as they often are — they ought to be always on good terms with death. Work to wean your hearts from the world. Let the mantel of earthly enjoyments hang loose about you, that it may be easily dropped, when death comes to carry you away into another world.

When a Christian’s heart is truly weaned from the world, he is prepared for death, and it will be the more easy to him. A heart disengaged from the world is a heavenly one —and we are only ready for heaven when our heart is there before us.

Adapted from the chapter, “Death” in Human Nature in Its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston (1676-1732).  Boston was a Scottish church leader, an “inheritor and champion of Puritan theology and of the Reformational rethinking that preceded it.”