To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” So said George Santayana.
Autumn to me is a time to think about dying. Sounds morbid but I do. The Autumn leaves do that. I go back to Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for everything. There is nothing wrong with contemplating death. It is better than the other extreme and that is not thinking about it. Luther wrote a great devotional book on contemplating death.
Dennis Ngien writes “Luther believed that death becomes ominous because the devil uses it to undermine our faith. He haunts us with death in three ways.
First, the Devil taunts us with the remembrance that death is a sign of God’s wrath toward sinners. “In that way, [the devil] fills our foolish human nature with the dread of death while cultivating a love and concern for life, so that burdened with such thoughts man forgets God, flees and abhors death, and thus, in the end, is and remains disobedient to God.”
Luther’s remedy for this first temptation is to contemplate death all the more, but to do so at the right time—which is not the time of death. Instead, he exhorts us to “invite death into our presence when it is still at a distance and not on the move”—that is, in our daily lives long before death threatens us. Conversely, Luther counsels Christians to banish thoughts of death at the final hour and to use that time to meditate on life.
Second, the Devil magnifies our accusing conscience by reminding us of those who were condemned to hell for lesser sins than ours. This, too, casts us into despair, so that we forget God’s grace in the last hour. Again Luther admonishes us not to deny our sinfulness, but to contemplate it during our lifetimes, as is taught in Psalm 51:3: “My sin is ever before me.” The devil closes our eyes to our sin during our lives, just when we should be thinking of it. He then opens our eyes to the horrible reality of sin and judgment in the final hour, when our eyes should be seeing only grace.
Third, the Devil plagues us with the prospect of hell, specifically by increasing the soul’s burden with haunting questions concerning election. He prods the soul into undertaking the one thing forbidden—delving into the mystery of God’s will. In this undertaking, the devil “practices his ultimate, greatest, and most cunning art and power,” for he “sets man above God” so that we look in the wrong place for assurance of election. In this respect, delving into the mystery of election is never a good practice, but especially not when one faces the final enemy.”