Wrecked by Loss
This song is unlike Imagine Dragons’ previous music in its sentimental and personal nature. “Wrecked” begins with an acoustic tune in which lead singer, Dan Reynolds, describes his sorrow over the premature passing of his sister-in-law, a close friend from his childhood. Reynolds quickly dives into the pain of prolonged grief singing:
Days pass by and my eyes stay dry and I think that I’m okay
‘Til I find myself in conversation fading away
The way you smile, the way you walk
The time you took to teach me all that you had taught
Tell me, how am I supposed to move on?
Whether we have mourned the loss of a friend or family member or stood by a friend as they have mourned, we’ve all known the heartache that comes from the loss of life. The heartbreak that death brings can’t be captured in words. During a season of tragedy, there is nothing that we can do to “fix” the situation. Love and encouragement—and sometimes sitting together in silence—are the best ways to support our hurting friends. There is no way to rationalize the pain of loss or to streamline the grieving process.
Outside of the fog of bereavement, however, we can see how different worldviews approach the realities of death, life, and grief. The beliefs that we hold about these things affect how we mourn, live, and reflect upon the lives of our loved ones who have died. Although these ideas rarely change during a period of grief, they can determine how grief is displayed during a loss. Although despair walks alongside us when facing death, it is not the truest way to handle our loss.
Death and Despair
Dan Reynolds has expressed publicly that in his everyday life he oscillates between naturalism and deism. “Wrecked” expresses Reynolds’ feeling of despair amidst this confusion. Throughout the entirety of the song, Reynolds’ story of loss is depicted by a hand reaching out into emptiness. The lyric video’s imagery alludes to a drowning pain and hopelessness. Other musical artists have explored similar feelings of loss, choosing denial over despair. Could Reynolds’ confusion about God’s existence contribute to his pain surrounding death?
The Search for Significance
In a recent press release, Reynolds told journalists that “No longer being a man of fervent faith, I can only hope that she hears [this song] somewhere in a place where she is healed and no longer in pain. This song is my wish for eternity with those that I love.” In a later Tweet, Reynolds says, “I hope there is something after this life. I hope to see her again.” In other interviews, Reynold claims uncertainty about his religion and beliefs about God saying, “Some days I don’t believe in anything—some days I’m probably more atheist than your atheist friend. And some days I want to pray to God.” Reynolds’ struggle between his disbelief in anything beyond the physical world and his longing to believe in a God is a position many people find themselves in, especially when confronted with death.
When Reynolds says, “This song is my wish for eternity with those that I love,” he is appealing to the hope of an afterlife. Many people experience this pendulum swing between atheism and wanting a God who cares for them and hears their prayers. This pluralistic mindset wants a place where all the bad is wiped out and life can be enjoyed alongside loved ones, while also wanting there to be no God so that there is no accountability. Christian Smith says that many people want a God who is, “something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he’s always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process” 1. This sort of belief finds itself straddling Deism and naturalism. On days when someone like Reynolds “pray[s] to God,” they swing towards a deist worldview. On days when they “are more atheist than your atheist friend,” they are swinging towards a naturalist worldview.
Without something objectively meaningful outside of ourselves, it is impossible to add meaning or purpose to our lives. We all want to experience meaning, joy, and purpose, and this feeling is not lost to naturalists. Yet, naturalism leaves people with a need to “add” meaning to their lives from arbitrary things in the world that they deem as meaningful. Unfortunately, “adding” this meaning is impossible. Either meaning exists everywhere—including within us—because there is a God from whom it derives meaning, or it does not exist anywhere, because there is nothing to derive it from.
By and large, naturalism says our lives are simply a splash of color between two grey and empty voids. If meaninglessness is the end of our story, even if it is full of color, we will feel despair when confronted with death. Reynolds’ grief, confusion, and longing to see his loved one leaves him “in conversation fading away.” He is reflecting on how the past is gone, wondering “how am I supposed to move on?” 2 He is hoping that he will see his loved ones again after this life without any real confidence that life after death is a possibility. This constant pain and regret over a loss of life, especially if someone believes life could end in nothing, can lead to despair.
Despair is not the only way to face death. Christianity offers clear claims about death and life. These claims can bring Christians hope not only in an afterlife, but also hope for our lives here on the earth.
Christianity trades the despondency, darkness, and despair of death for victorious hope. Death is not the end of our story, and despair is not something to succumb to—though it is certainly right and good to grieve the loss of someone we love. We know the end of God’s story and it is full of hope and new life in his coming Kingdom. We do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-141 ). Although despair can come from thinking that the end of our story is meaningless, the Bible claims something different: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
On the surface this may seem like an excuse to be fake and happy when faced with loss and death, ignoring the pain we experience. It is not. As Christians, we will still face trouble, death, and sorrow because it is a result of sin (Romans 5:12). We are right to mourn death; it is a personal loss and the biggest example of how sin destroys. Although it may seem contradictory, we are also right to hold the hope of eternity alongside our pain because hope for the Kingdom of Heaven is part of what Jesus died for.
Holding feelings of mourning, sadness, and bleakness alongside the knowledge of eternal hope and healing feels impossible and is extremely difficult, but it is the tension of being both fallen and redeemed. George MacDonald, a Christian minister, and author, once said, “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His” 3. We will suffer, but we are not to suffer in despair; we are to suffer like Christ. Suffer with the hope of abundant life and for the glory of God. Unlike naturalists, Christians have hope because Jesus has overcome death (John 16:33). Instead of despair, we can hold onto the quiet hope of redemption amidst our mourning. Christianity’s specific claims about who God is makes it a unique form of faith. Death does bring lifelong sorrow to the Christian but hope during the deep pain of bereavement.
The death of one man—Jesus—brings forgiveness to the world, and his resurrection from the dead brings life to those who believe (Romans 5:17). Christians have eternal, meaningful, and abundant life because Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection offer it to us as a free gift (Romans 8). And we can be comforted in our sorrow because Jesus not only weeps with us (John 11:35) over death, but he also walks with us in pain and suffering. Christians can have hope because we know that the abundance of our lives here on earth is just a small glimpse of what eternal life will be like in the coming Kingdom of God, where all emotional pain and physical suffering will come to an end (Revelation 7:17). Death for the Christian is not meaningless. Abundant life starts now and continues into God’s Kingdom for eternity.
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