A young man named Paul enters a dormitory room, lies down on the bed, and nervously shakes his leg. After a few moments he sits up on the edge of the bed. He shifts his eyes around the room. He is obviously upset. Another young man, Cayne, enters and sees Paul sitting there.
Cayne: Hey, Paul, how are you doing?
Paul: I don't know. I won't know until Monday.
Cayne: What's that big bandage on your neck?
Paul: That's where they took it.
Cayne: Took what?
Paul: The biopsy.
Cayne: Biopsy...cancer? (Paul nods his head.) They're looking for cancer in you? Holy smoke, that means none of us is safe.
Paul: I am so scared, I don't know what to do. I've never been so shook-up in my life.
Cayne: Well, what kind of cancer are they looking for?
Paul: (irritated) I don't know.
Cayne: What are they going to do if they find out it is cancer?
Paul: (more emphatic) I don't know.
Cayne: Think you might have surgery?
Paul: (now mad) Darn it, Cayne, I don't know! Would you please just stop asking questions? I don't know anything about my future, and that frightens me most. Right now I'm just helpless, and to add insult to injury, I have to wait over the weekend to find out my fate.
Cayne: That's tough!
Two more young men enter the room.
Kenny: (with feeling) Thank God it's Friday! What a week. Let's get out of here and go celebrate. Where do you want to go?
Kris: We could go over to Mama Rose's for a pizza and something nice to wash it down with.
Cayne: (looking apologetically at Paul) I don't think tonight, you guys. (Paul is obviously uncomfortable and shifts his eyes around the room, trying hard not to look at anyone.) Paul's not feeling well tonight and I thought I would stay here with him.
Kenny: What's wrong, man?
Cayne: It's a test he took... He's a little worried about the results.
Kenny: So you didn't study for a test; there's no sense worrying about it now.
Kris: Right. It's over. Forget about it and let's get out of here.
Paul: (slowly but firmly) The test was a biopsy. (He looks a little upset with his friends.) You can't study for it. If you pass, you live; if you flunk, you die, and you can't even study for it...
Kris: (horribly embarrassed) Look, Paul, I'm sorry for being so stupid, I just didn't know. I could have never imagined.
Paul: It's all right, and I'm all right, I really am. I'm just scared, real scared, and I know I shouldn't be.
Kenny: Why not? You may die!
Cayne: Real smooth, Kenny, real smooth.
Paul: (stands up, walks around the room, eyes gazing everywhere, as he wrings his hands) I'm a Christian, you know. Every night as a kid I put death on notice, "...and if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Thinking about death didn't scare me then; I guess I never really believed it could happen to me. But I'm afraid now. My stomach is tied up in knots, and the knots are fluttering. I'm getting visions of the campus here at springtime with flowers and girls everywhere and me gone--forever. How can that happen? How can there be a time when there will be no me? Who's going to marry Lisa if it's not me? I really hate this.
Kris: Look, Paul, none of us here knows what you're going through, and honestly, we don't ever want to know what you're going through. But you're not the first Christian who was afraid of death. I don't think we can say Jesus was afraid, but not even He was crazy about the idea. Remember, He prayed something like: "Father, if You're willing, remove this cup from Me..." And I think, Paul, what makes us afraid is that we don't know how it's going to turn out for us. Like you said, not knowing what's going to happen to you is deadly.
Cayne: I've been sitting here thinking... People are always afraid of things in their life, until they know that everything is going to turn out fine. Then, all the scary stuff no longer has to be scary.
Kris: So, what does this mean?
Cayne: It means we know how it ends, and why. We know that Jesus beat sin, death, and the power of the devil. We know why He did it, to take us to Himself forever. So, Paul, the fear is not all gonna go away, and that's okay. Don't feel bad about it. But Paul, just remember that Jesus died so that none of us could lose. However this thing turns out, buddy, you win. God gave His word on it.
Paul: Thanks, Cayne, that really helps, it does, but it's also a little empty. I'm afraid I don't really want to be okay in heaven, I'd rather be okay right here. I guess what I'm saying is this: Even though Jesus' resurrection hasn't completely taken away my fears, I can live with them now, and I think that's good enough.
Cayne: That's good enough because we have God enough to make it good.
Originally published in Youth Ministry Quarterly 90:4, Winter 1990.
Republished and revised in March 2011 for thESource.