I recently read an article about the legal complications involved in determining the difference between life and death. There are the obvious complications of unnatural law, like the notion that an unborn child is conditionally human, such that the mother may conspire with an abortionist to kill him, while a stranger who shoots her in the belly may be charged with his murder.
Meanwhile, there are cases where someone quite dead by medical standards is revived several minutes later. And at the other extreme, there is someone who is dead but for machinery whose heart is kept beating long enough for technicians to harvest his organs. When do you give up, once someone no longer breathes or has a beating heart? In what sense does he still live, if the only functioning parts of him are powered by machine?
It can be hard to distinguish the living from the dead, even for a medical doctor.
It can be hard for any of us to discern life from death in our hearts. Have you ever felt dead in your soul, moving from task to task, from day to day, with no hope, without the ability, even, to repeat the words of hope that you know good Christians are supposed to repeat?
I know this is overly grim for my good Christian friends. Some of them have never endured dark shadowy places. Their Christian walk is simpler. I don't know if this is because they are stronger or weaker, nobler or less secure. Sometimes, I think, we mistake our good circumstances for virtue, forgetting that the hand of Providence protects us even from our own constitutions.
So, life and death. Reading that article made me think on the passage in Scriptures, about us being dead in our trespasses and sins but being made alive in Christ. A Christian isn't supposed to feel dead again, yet I've certainly felt that way-more than once. Am I not saved in those days and weeks of darkness and silence? Is it proof I was never saved? Or do I only feel dead, while in fact I'm still alive?
It can be hard to discern the living from the dead.
I suspect there is danger in imagining that we cannot slink back into the valley of the dead, just as there is peril in allowing ourselves to believe that the shadows we endure are proof that we will never again walk in the land of the living. Maybe all of us, every day, are walking closer to the line separating death from life, darkness from light.
I think so. Which means we should take caution when in the light, and most important, have hope when in darkness, for the light is closer than we think. May it ever be so.