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Most everyone who has been on this earth for very long has lost a loved one. I certainly have. More than that, I can almost guarantee that every person reading this has heard something like this before: “we know that she (or he) is in heaven right now, watching over all of us.”
In part one of this topic, I talked about us—the living—and how we view the deceased. I ask you to consider whether or not the belief that the dead are now watching over us is a good thing, or a bad thing. In general, I think that question could be answered in two different ways. For some, the thought that deceased loved ones are watching over them is extraordinarily comforting. For others, this prospect brings with it an overwhelming feeling of dread and paranoia.
As I said, not all people are good, and not all people are worth remembering.
But let’s consider the other side of the coin. Would it really be a good thing for those who have passed away to “watch over us?” They have supposedly moved on to a place of perpetual bliss, but you have to ask the question: what sort of life would that be like?
Is that really a heavenly existence?
I feel that most of us who talk about how the “dead are watching over us from heaven” have not thought this through very far. No offense intended by that statement. None at all. But I’m not sure that is what any of us should even want.
If you fall in the camp that finds comfort in the belief that a lost love one is watching over you, consider how that loved one might see things. Do you want your mom, dad, brother, sister, spouse, friend, or—Lord forbid—your child, seeing what happens in your life after they are gone?
Think hard about that question.
It’s all well and good to think that they might be celebrating with us at, say, our college graduation, our wedding, or at the news of a big job promotion. But we also know what that sort of ability (the ability to see our lives) would also bring with it. Every time we fall short; every time we fail; every time we lash out in violence or anger; every time we suffer; every time we make others suffer; every time that tragedy strikes; and every time that one passes away . . . they would be watching.
Would your mom or dad want to watch you die? That question ought to be rhetorical. No: who would want that?
Besides these issues, there is one really huge problem with this belief. Wouldn’t the ability to see everything we are doing essentially equate to having God-like knowledge and understanding? Isn’t it God—and God alone—who is supposed to be able to peer into every person’s life, and track his or her every move? It troubles me that most of us are so eager to grant those abilities to deceased human beings. It should bother those of us who do it.
Clearly, God can handle this ability—but even He mourns our losses; “Costly in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). We of course know that Jesus wept (inconsolably) at the death of his friend Lazarus. However, it’s a little crazy to think that deceased human beings can endure seeing all of the death and suffering that occurs in our world. Don’t you think?
I am not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone. That is not my intent in saying any of this. As I noted earlier, I don’t believe most of us have thought this through. But now we can. It is not too late to change the way we think about death, or the way we speak about the deceased.
The next time that tragedy strikes, and someone you know leaves this world, think about how you speak of him or her. Whenever we either say or hear, “this person is looking down at us from heaven,” ask yourself what all that would actually entail.
Is it really a good thing for them if they are now “watching over us”? Is it really a good thing for us, either?
Personally, I answer “no” to both questions.
Thank you for reading! If you found this blog interesting, please see all the other posts on this site. You can purchase The Death Myth by clicking here.