Francois Mitterrand, the late president of France, was an intellectual and an atheist. Yet in the latter years of his life, he had a fascination with death and a desire to know what lies beyond the grave–something which challenged the atheism which he held to, at least philosophically. Possessed by a strange fascination with death, he visited the graves of many of France’s leading citizens pondering how they lived and how they died. He once said that “he who loves death loves life.”
When Mitterrand, late in life, was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate and the reality of death began to stare him in the face, his atheism began to be challenged by the reality of life itself. In the autumn the flowers wither, blighted by the frost of the coming winter. Eventually, they die and the bulbs remain dormant, but in the spring new life comes forth. That fact wasn’t lost on Mitterrand, who saw in nature a cycle which is unbroken. Because time itself is not absolute, it can only be measured in terms of change–which is why a person says, “I am so many years old,” meaning “I have had so many birthdays since I came into the world at birth.”
The laws of thermodynamics say that energy in the form of heat passes from a hotter object to cooler ones but never the reverse. Even atomic energy has a half- life and constantly changes, but matter never disintegrates into nothingness.
As an intellectual, Mitterrand confronted the possibilities of eternal life but never seemed to embrace it. Towards the end of his life, he was asked if he believed in God, and he replied, “I don’t know if I believe in God, but I am tempted to believe.”
As he realized his time was running out, Mitterrand asked his doctors how long he would live if he stopped taking his medication. “Three days” was their response. Mitterrand stopped taking his medicine. The next day he delivered a hand-written instruction for his funeral to his doctor and a friend, finished final editing in an 800-page book–the only one he ever wrote–and on the third day, he died.
“I don’t know if I believe in God,” he said, “but I am tempted to believe.” What a sad epitaph to a brilliant life. Who knows what took place in the heart of this great man in the final hours of his life–but I, for one, would not want to face death with no more certainty than being “tempted to believe.”
In the final analysis God isn’t proved or even discovered intellectually. It is at the level of the spirit that we connect with the Almighty. The New Testament says so clearly that whoever comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
Can God be known with certainty? Paul wrote, “…I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Millions of searching men and women have found the same answer as did Paul, and have died with the certainty that there is a God and that He sent His son to bring us into peace with Himself.
The question, “What lies on the other side of death?” will never be answered by rationalism, philosophy, or mysticism. It’s found in the Bible. The answer to the searching heart is there for the finding. Don’t be tempted to believe. As the song goes, “Only believe. All things are possible. Only believe.”
Resource Reading: Revelation 21:1-8
Text: I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – August 9, 2017