Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death

Other than crashing, do you know what is the #1 concern for airline passengers? It is not the hassle of delays. It is not even the long lines at security. It is not the high cost of tickets.

The #1 concern of airline passengers is turbulence.

I’ll admit, of all the things that I hate about the whole hassle of air travel, it is turbulence that makes me hold on to my seat and pull the seatbelt a little tighter.

But have you ever wondered what is actually going on in the cockpit during turbulence? According to Patrick Swift of, not much. He says from a pilot’s perspective, their reaction to turbulence is more about trying to avoid coffee spilling on passengers than it is a safety issue. He says:

“For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket.”

When the pilot comes over the cabin speakers to announce that we are going to encounter a small patch of rough air, all I hear in my mind is, “We are in a patch of rough air and WE’RE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO MAKE IT! Those 17 tiny pretzels we gave you will be your last meal – we hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for flying Delta.”

What’s most interesting is that passengers tend to exaggerate the actual effects of turbulence. Some passengers would say that the plane suddenly descended by as much as 3,000 feet when in reality it may have been as little as 10.

Why are there such divergent reactions between the pilots who are relatively unphased by turbulence and passengers who are in a total panic? It all comes down to perspective.

Life has a lot of ups and downs to it. Along the way, there will be turbulence. How do we avoid wild swings of emotion? How do we avoid hitting the panic button?

In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon outlines the ups and downs of life. Along the way he gives some incredible perspective. When a person trusts God he can actually glean some very good things at some very bad times.

The key verse that unlocks the meaning of the passage is 7:14a. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made one as well as the other.

It is in realizing that even in the turbulence, our pilot is not in a panic. God has something good for us even in the bad. In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon is giving us a pilot’s perspective on life turbulence and in a sense telling us – don’t hit the panic button.

Don’t Hit the Panic Button on Death

At first reading, Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 seems to be a morbid perspective on life and death. He says that death is better than birth. Is this a gruesome wish to die? Is it a twisted encouragement to end one’s life? Not at all.

In the final line of verse 2 Solomon says about death that “the living will lay it to heart.” He is not endorsing death. He is pointing us to wisdom. The greatest lessons for the living are not learned at a party, but at a funeral.

Given the choice, I think we had all rather be at a birthday party than a funeral. A party is a much happier occasion – it involves feasting (v. 2b). At a good party there is a lot of laughter (v. 3a). Everyone is in the fun zone when they are at a party. Solomon describes it as a house of mirth (v.4b).

We can learn a lot about living if we take some time to think about dying.

But it is foolish to think that life is just one big party (4a). As ridiculous as it is to believe the earth is flat, so it is to believe that your life can be perfect. Every day can’t be a party. People who run from party to party usually make a mess of their lives. Parties are great experiences, but there is very little wisdom that is learned on the dancefloor.

A funeral has a sobering effect on life. Losing someone will make you push the pause button on the fun zone and force you to take some time to think. As hard as death is, don’t push the panic button on the moment or on the rest of your life. “Lay it to heart.” Learn from it. Remember verse 14, God made even this day. We can learn a lot about living when we pay attention to dying. What are the lessons of a funeral?

  1. Decisions matter. Funerals have a way of reminding us, that both good and bad decisions matter. Health decisions matter. Life decisions matter. Moral decisions matter. There is nothing more tragic than losing someone to a bad decision. There is nothing that would make that lost life more wasted than you making that same bad decision. There is nothing like a funeral to also remind us that good decisions matter. There is a greater spirit of comfort in a family whenever someone is lost who made great decisions. Those decisions blessed that family. Those decisions will continue to help guide that family. Every funeral puts a finality on decisions. Observing death helps us to evaluate life and wonder if it were to end soon, have I made great decisions that will last long after I’m gone?
  2. Family matters. There is nothing like a funeral to bring out the true family dynamic. You see some great, bonded families at funerals and you also see the horror that a segmented, divided family can bring. Funerals remind us that the decisions we make in marriage and parenting matter. Death brings finality but awakens us to the opportunity we have in life. How do you want to be remembered by your kids? How do you want to be remembered by your spouse? Funerals are sobering reminders to tell people you love them while you have them.
  3. Life matters. Funerals confirm what James says in James 4:14, life is but a vapor. It comes for a short time and then vanishes away. No matter how long we live, it is never long enough. I think part of what Solomon means by “the living will lay it to heart” is that the wise learn from death how to make life count.
  4. Jesus matters. If anything funerals remind us is that we are not going to live forever. But wait a minute; according to the Bible, we are going to live forever. The Bible teaches us that we are eternal creations of God. Each of us will live forever, but there are two very difference versions of forever. One is an eternal lake of fire reserved for those who have rebelled against God. The other is a new heaven and a new earth for those who have received God’s Son, Jesus Christ, by repentance and faith. Death makes the decision final, but you are going to live forever. Jesus said today is the day of salvation. Why not make your forever decision today?

Don’t push the panic button on death. Losing someone is a turbulent time. But remember, God gave you plenty of days to party and He has also made this day. Lay it to heart. Learn from it. The lessons we learn in dying give us the wisdom we need to really live.

Posted in sermon manuscripts, Sermon of the Week, Understanding the Bible and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Brian this was such a great sermon, learning how not to panic was a challenge for me, but in the last 41/2 years I’ve came a long way! Learning how to take the bad along with the good and understanding God has a reason for everything He does. I find myself totally amused when He reviles Himself in something I’ve been Praying over! I have found out that’s exactly what He wants and desires, is for us to earnestly seek Him in everything! Thank you for doing all you do,you are such a blessing to so many!

    • At the heart of it all we realize that we live in a bad world, but we have a good God. He is a righteous God. Every choice He makes is right for us and for Himself. Keep pressing forward! Thanks for your encouragement and for reading my posts! I’m glad it was a blessing to you.

  2. This is very good thank you ! I’m
    Going to pass this on to my aunt who is having a hard time after loosing her husband a year and half a go.

  3. Pingback: The Worst Way to Waste Your Life; | there's a better way to do it.

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