By Jim Denison (revised)
A fascinating study by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reports that optimism, along with stubbornness, a love for family and country, and a willingness to work hard were traits common among a group of Italians aged 90 to 101.
However, before you decide that optimistic stubbornness is all you need to live longer, take note: other studies claim that owning a dog, drinking coffee, and doing more push-ups and sit-ups contribute to longevity.
Here's a fact: no matter how long you live, you won't live on this planet forever.
Evil people like the Son of Sam killer can develop heart disease. Heroes like John McCain can develop brain cancer. The death rate is still 100%.
If we will all die, why do we try so hard to fight the fact of our mortality?
The Bible calls death "the last enemy to be destroyed" (1 Corinthians 15:26). Jesus Christ, by His blameless life and sacrificial death conquered sin, by His healing power conquered sickness and by His miracles and His ultimate miracle of resurrection from the dead, He conquered death itself. He promised His followers that in the world to come there will be no more sin or sickness or crying or death. When Satan is finally judged and cast into hell at the end of the age, death itself shall die.
But for now, on this earth, death is the great unknown. For those who have accepted Jesus as their saviour and Lord, they have some idea of where they are going; but death is especially frightening for those who are not sure what lies beyond the grave, or who suspect they don't deserve to end up anywhere good.
Note the many ways we seek to ignore or obscure the reality of our mortality. We use euphemisms such as "he passed on" or "she left us" to avoid saying that a person "died."
There was a day when nearly every funeral included an open casket and a processional past the deceased person's body. Today there is seldom an open casket even at the cemetery or a body present at the memorial service. People are no longer comfortable facing death.
This refusal to confront our mortality is a very effective tool of the devil in keeping people from considering their need for Jesus. In his novel The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis quoted a demonic tempter: "The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
That is why followers of Jesus keep talking to people about needing to be saved. Such conversations can seem confrontational or judgemental, but like an oncologist telling a patient they have cancer, telling someone they have systemic sin but Jesus has the cure, is not insensitive, it is life-saving.
Billy Graham is right: "Heaven is real and hell is real, and eternity is but a breath away." As another writer put it; "If you don't know where you are going it is not safe to die." The key question you need to be able to answer is; are you ready?•