This one comes to us from Juliette Alvey.

Anytime I hear someone speak positively about death or not fearing death, my ears perk up. I am not one of those people. I am scared to death to die. So when Jerry Seinfeld had a conversation with John Mulaney on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and predicted that death will be a good feeling, I took note. Here is how the conversation went down in the middle of a random rug shop:

Mulaney: I’d like to die looking at the ocean.

Seinfeld: Yeah.

Mulaney: I think. Though I don’t know what it feels like to die.

Seinfeld: I think it’s gonna feel great. [John Mulaney laughs.] All the things you’re done with! I just think it’s gonna be fantastic.

The idea that death relieves us from all of the struggles and everyday hassles of life is helpful. As a Christian, I would like to think that death will be a merciful release from the imprisonment of life, as well as a moving towards something greater: being in the presence of the Lord.

After the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis, they receive curses, along with the serpent, and then “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Skin requires another creature to die, so the first occurrence of death is an act of mercy toward man. God provides for them and covers their nakedness that now causes humiliation. After He clothed them, “the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken” (Gen. 3:22-23). I had always read this as being another curse: man can no longer live eternally in the Garden because of his knowledge of good and evil. However, it may actually be an act of mercy. Now that Adam and Eve live in a broken world—and we all know what that is like—God won’t allow them to live forever in that pain. Rather than a punishment, this is another great act of mercy from God.

Now, even though we would all admit that we do not want to live forever in this broken world, we still have trouble understanding God’s timing in death. When we mourn the death of a loved one who has experienced long and terrible suffering, it is slightly easier to see the mercy in death. That person is no longer in misery, and we are thankful for that. But when it is someone who seems to have gone “before their time,” when they still had a lot of life to live, we are confused. In these cases, it is extremely difficult to see death as mercy from God, and we don’t understand His timing. We cry out, “Why now, Lord?” There is so much we do not know: what would this person have had to suffer later on? What work of the Spirit is being carried out to bring others to trust in God through this loss? We can speculate and find hope in some ideas, but ultimately our own reasoning does not bring much comfort. God does not give us all of the answers. But He does give us himself.

This leads me to another great conversation that Jerry Seinfeld and John Mulaney had on that same episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Seinfeld asks Mulaney about not having kids. Mulaney makes it clear that he doesn’t have anything against kids, but he and his wife like their life the way it is, and then he says this:

Mulaney: I don’t know what I’d say to kids.

Seinfeld: Oh, what a stupid thing to say, “I don’t know what I’d say to kids.” First of all, they just want food. Okay? You don’t have to say anything. Just give ’em something to eat.

Mulaney: What if they ask, “Where did Grandma go when she died?” I go, “I have no idea.” I don’t know.

Seinfeld: That’s an answer.

Mulaney: Really? 

Seinfeld: Yes.

Mulaney: Don’t kids need to hear solid answers?

Seinfeld: No, they don’t need anything. They just need you.

Mulaney: That’s a nice answer. That’s very sweet.

Oh Lord, thank you for your mercy in life and in death. When your time comes for me or my loved ones to die, keep us in your loving arms. We trust you and your perfect timing. We don’t need answers, we just need you. Amen.