Who is going to be interested in our "digital footprint” in a century? - Anne Witton

Growing up, I found death both fascinating and terrifying. I felt that knowing what happened after death was essential for finding purpose and meaning in life.

After all, if death negates everything I spend my life investing in, is it really worth doing anything at all? Tolstoy wrote, “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?"

Have you ever wondered what happens when you die? Are we just atoms that will be rearranged into something else when we snuff it? Do we just cease to exist? Will we be reincarnated? Do we have an eternal soul?

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Will we face judgement? Is there hope of a life to come? Or do we simply live on in others’ memories? If the passing on of our genetic material is our legacy, where does that leave the millions of people who don’t have children? Whatever you believe happens when you die, it seems a pretty significant question to wrestle with.

Anne Witton, SolasAnne Witton, Solas
Anne Witton, Solas

The reality is that most of us will be completely forgotten in a couple of generations. According to a recent YouGov survey, just 7 per cent of Brits expect to be remembered for more than 50 years after their death. Even people who have made a significant contribution to human history only have the sketchiest facts associated with them known after a few hundred years. Almost nothing is known today about the life of William Shakespeare for example.

Most of us – however notable in our culture’s eyes – will be completely forgotten, even by our own families eventually. Who is going to be interested in our ‘digital footprint’ in a century? Each generation gets diluted; in four generations you’ve got 16 great-great-grandparents from whom you’re removed in time and in genetic similarity. Life is transient and ephemeral until it’s given some transcendent meaning.

The Bible highlights well the ultimate futility of life if God is removed from the equation. “Everything is meaningless.”What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun?Generations come and generations go, No one remembers the former generations, and... those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

So where can any of us find ultimate meaning? Most religions teach that there is an afterlife, whether that is reincarnation, rebirth or resurrection. Today, heaven and hell are much quoted but little understood. Many have a vague sense that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. Surprisingly, Christianity teaches that none of us deserve to go to heaven. But the good news is that Jesus has paid the price for our rebellion against God by his death and resurrection which guarantees that anyone who puts their trust in him can enjoy perfect everlasting life, as the gift of God.

This not only secures eternal hope, it also informs our priorities in life now. Jesus taught us to invest in that which won’t be rendered void by the inevitability of death, and instead to work for that which lasts (Matt 6: 19 – 21)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.."

If we turn to Christ, we will have an inheritance which can’t fade or be destroyed and will last for ever. We will enjoy eternal life with him and all the goodness of a restored creation, restored relationships and a new body long after our bodily death here. Whatever you think about death, that’s worth investigating.

Anne Witton for Solas

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