Thanatophobia is a fear of death. The word originates from the Greek god of death; Thanatos.
We all fear death, or we should all fear death. A certain fear of death keeps us from taking unnecessary risks. It is only when fear of death drastically alters the way we live that it becomes a problem.
68% of Americans have a fear of death. Yet, children, according to Stanley Hall, are born without a fear of death.
Martha feared death as her brother Lazarus died. She scolded Jesus for being away and for taking so long to come when summoned about Lazarus’ sickness. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The fear of death hinges around two main questions:
- What happens to you after you die?
- What is dying actually like?
Traumatic experiences such as a terrible accident, severe illness, natural disaster, a violent attack on your person, family or property, can leave you with a fear of death.
Being surrounded by death, such as soldiers in wars, doctors and nurses, and caregivers around their dying patients, can bring fear of death.
Fear of the future being unable to prevent death, and the uncertainty as to what happens after you die, brings thanatophobia.
Religion tries to assure us that dying is nothing more that falling asleep and waking up with Christ and our loved ones in heaven; yet some groups lay down strict rules that if one deviates from, brings condemnation, guilt and fear. Others who question their beliefs, fear that they could be wrong.
Billy Graham says, “No one can outrun death. It will catch up to all of us eventually.”
I have watched a sister die with stomach cancer at the prime age of 37, leaving three beautiful children and a loving husband to mourn their loss. I have watched my dad die with pneumonia and my mom die of strokes, after suffering dementia in a nursing home for two years. In-laws, uncles, aunts, grandparents, fellow ministers, friends, saints; all have faced death.
I have prayed with those who had a fear of dying. Their eyes stayed locked on mine as I watched them, as I prayed, asking God to forgive any sin and cover them with His Atoning Blood, and fill them with His love and peace as He escorts them into His Presence surrounded by their guardian angels. Their eyes relaxed, their faces smiled, as they looked beyond me to what human eyes could not see. Slowly their eyes closed, and their breathing slowed, then stopped as they gave that last breath outward: their spirit leaving their weary body; ascending to the One who created them in His image. Peace filled the room time after time as I have been privileged to pray with those ready to face death.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)
“Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
“But [God’s grace] has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10)
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.” (Helen Keller)
“Death may be the King of terrors… but Jesus is the King of kings!” (D.L.Moody)
Thanatos, the Greek god of death, as well as Satan, who rules the angel of death, have been conquered by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He holds the keys to death, hell, and the grave, and will soon cast the devil and his evil angels into outer darkness for eternity!
“Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11:26)