Life’s Questions in Rock and Roll

As weird as it may seem, life’s ultimate questions are often posed in rock-and-roll lyrics. Consider, for example, the 1969 hit, “And When I Die,” by the band, Blood, Sweat and Tears. Like so many other poets, story-tellers, and just average human beings have questioned, “And When I Die” is all about the question of what happens when I die? As is often the case with the young, they can’t even imagine they will actually die – and if they might somehow die, they shrug it off as probably no big deal. That attitude is reflected here in the first verse of the song:

I’m not scared of dying
And I don’t really care
If it’s peace you find in dying
Well, then let the time be near
If it’s peace you find in dying
And if dying time is here just bundle up my coffin
‘Cause it’s cold way down there
I hear that it’s cold way down there
Yeah, crazy cold way down there

In this view, death is not a big deal and perhaps is a good thing, if it brings us peace from this trouble filled life. OK, so it may be “crazy cold” way down in the ground, but if someone will just bundle up his coffin, that should resolve the “cold problem,” so it’s all good.

The refrain is simple:

And when I die, and when I’m gone
There’ll be one child born
In this world to carry on, to carry on

The message – even if I do die, it’ll all be cool because I will be replaced by a newer model who will carry on. But as the song progresses other considerations for what might happen after one dies begin setting in. Getting away from my troubles seems great, but what if there is judgment after death. What if there is a place called heaven, or, God forbid (if God exists) there is a place such as hell? It’s all well and good if another child takes my place here on earth, but where am I going to end up? That’s quite unsettling to think about, and I won’t know for sure until I die!

Now troubles are many, they’re as deep as a well
I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell
Swear there ain’t no heaven and I pray there ain’t no hell
But I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell
Yes, only my dying will tell, yeah, only my dying will tell

As Hamlet might say, when considering the same issue, “Aye, there’s the rub.” It’s all well and good to die if dying is just a peaceful respite from our troubles, but what if death is not really the end of me or my troubles at all? What happens after I take that last breath? What if I ignore God and His Word and discover there is such a thing as eternal separation from God and torment forever? Maybe I don’t believe there is a heaven, but I better pray that there “ain’t no hell.” There seems to be something in his soul that tells him that he is not right with God, so IF there is a hell, that’s where he’s headed! The song progresses to the eternal chase:

Here comes the devil right behind
Look out children
Here he comes, here he comes, hey
Don’t want to go by the devil
Don’t want to go by demon
Don’t want to go by Satan
Don’t want to die uneasy

He does not want to believe in God, or believe what God says is the only answer to our plight, but what if he is wrong? There is something within each of us that begins working on our minds as we contemplate the big question of what happens after I draw my last breath.

King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes probably in the last 5 years of his life (he died when he was around 50). He grappled with the question of what life means if there is no God or afterlife. Each avenue he takes to find fulfillment leads inevitably to despair. In the second verse of chapter one, Solomon cries:

Meaningless! Meaningless!
says the teacher.
Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.

We live, and then we die and are forgotten, like all generations before us. What difference does it make what we build, Solomon asks, if it cannot stand up to the ravages of time – and nothing does stand up to the ravages of time. What does it matter what goods or wealth we accumulate, if someone else, perhaps a fool, is destined to inherit it and squander it all? Does it matter how much knowledge we have (or skills, for that matter), when some doofus can come along and “win the race” with a stroke of dumb luck? Does nobility or status matter? No, Solomon says it is better to be a live dog than a dead lion because at least the dog knows he is alive, while the lion knows nothing at all. What about pleasure? Can’t we just live for pleasure – go for all the gusto we can get? Solomon found that did not work either. It did not satisfy because pleasure provides no ultimate meaning. Nothing matters, looked at from a worldly point of view. The worldly man lives his life, as Elton John puts it, “like a candle in the wind, never knowing who to cling to when the rain sets in.” The best he can hope for is to find peace in non-existence. He lives his meaningless life, swearing there is no heaven and praying there is no hell.

How do we or anything we do matter at all if we cease to exist after a few short years? Where does the question of meaning come from? Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God:

…has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart,

God puts eternity into man’s heart, so man instinctively knows that life is meaningless without God, without eternal life. Solomon speaks over and over of life “under the sun,” by which he means “life as a natural man without God” sees things. Without eternal life, life itself is absurd, meaningless.

The natural man is at enmity with God, and the honest person knows that. He knows in his heart that he does not deserve God’s favor because of the evil things he has done and will continue to do. He may console himself by comparing his (or her) own sins with a John Wayne Gacy  or some other serial killer or awful person. But God doesn’t grade on the curve. You are either at war with God or at peace with Him. There is absolutely nothing human beings can do to “fix things” with God. We are helpless. We need a Savior – Someone who can offer us God’s forgiveness, and eternal life, and ultimate meaning to our lives. Jesus, God in human flesh, came to live a perfect life on our behalf and pay the debt for our sins. Our part is to believe on Him – to call on Him to save us. Don’t wait until it is too late. Receive Him today.Ω

Don and Joy Signature 2

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