We had a child who was afraid of the darkness. When night fell, when the lights went out, when the house got quiet, she would lie in her bed terrified of every noise and petrified of every shadow. For a time she would even take certain objects out of her room before she went to bed—objects she had come to fear because of the scary shadows they would cast upon her floor and upon her walls. Often she would cry out in the night and we would have to stumble out of bed to quiet her, to investigate strange shapes, to try to convince her to go back to sleep.
She’s a lot older now and no longer so terribly fearful. After all, it’s children and not grownups who are afraid of shadows. As we grow up, as we mature, as we come to understand how the world works, we eventually realize that shadows have no substance, they have no reality, they have no ability to hurt or harm us. We set aside childish paranoias and no longer fear mere shadows.
But even with all of that being true, we do not live free from fears. Though we may stop fearing mere shadows, we realize there is plenty of substance and plenty of reality that is intimidating in its own right. This is a hostile world full of enemies who wish to do us harm. There is one enemy greater than any other who looms before us, not in the dark of night but at the end of our lives. Death looms in the distance as the great and final enemy, the one none of us can escape. Each of us knows we must eventually approach it, each of us must grapple with it, each of us must pass through it.
Yet the Bible assures us that we need not fear this enemy, for death itself is merely a shadow. At least, it is merely a shadow for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ and received his salvation. We do not need to face the true substance of death because Christ faced it on our behalf. He took our sin upon himself, he faced the holy wrath of God, he served out the complete sentence it deserved. In this great sacrifice he took death’s claws, he took its fangs, he took its strength. And because of this, we need to face no more than the shadow.
Shadows can do no harm. The shadow of a dog cannot bite. The shadow of a cobra cannot strike. The shadow of a giant cannot tear limb from limb. And the shadow of death cannot destroy. Though it may claim our bodies for a time, it cannot touch our souls and cannot sever them from God. Though we must pass through it, we need not fear it. Though it stands before us, it has no true claim on us.
When we are called to approach death, then, as each of us will, it should comfort us to know that we face no more than a shadow. And it should comfort us as well to know that where there is a shadow there is always a light, for shadows cannot exist in total darkness. Beyond the grave a light shines brightly, a light of hope that guides us to Paradise and guides us to Christ, the one who has defeated death and who has assured us that where he is, we too shall be.
Inspired by the writing of F.B. Meyer.