22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23
I was in line at the grocery store just the other day when I noticed the front cover of LIFE magazine. The cover pictured 6 deceased celebrities that I immediately recognized as world-famous musical artists. This recent issue of LIFE magazine is entitled The 27-Club: Rock Icons Who Died Too Young. The cover and content of the magazine features 6 musical artists who all died at the age of 27, hence the name 27-Club. These musicians were quite famous and known throughout the world for their music; particularly for their contributions to jazz, blues, and rock-and-roll. The 27 club includes musical superstars Brian Jones (1969), Jimi Hendrix (1970), Janis Joplin (1970), Jim Morrison (1971), Kurt Cobain (1994), and Amy Winehouse (2011).
I understand that some of these names may not be familiar to some of you, while others of you are quite familiar with the person and their music. I only had a moment to read the cover while at the register, but since I recognized the names of these celebrities and because I’ve heard about the “27-Club” before, I was immediately intrigued. So I decided to get a copy of the magazine at a later time. As I’ve read the articles and short biographic sketches of the lives of these complex and talented men and women, it has struck me at just how much influence a single person can have on literally millions of other people, and yet in the scope of time and history, each person’s life is so fleeting and fragile (James 4:14).
What I have found most intriguing about this magazine issue is how much these musical icons are praised and exalted for their contributions to the music industry while their personal lives were so incredibly heartbreaking. Their sudden and what some would consider “early” death have led to their lives being dubbed with the “tragic” label since they were unable to have long and productive careers of making music. What is most common among all 6 members of the 27-Club is their struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and many broken and destructive relationships. It makes you wonder how it is that all the praise and fame that comes with celebrity also brings with it despair and unceasing temptations to satisfy the flesh. There is no doubt that these artists truly lived out the stereotype of a rock-and-roll icon, and in each case, it ended their lives earlier than most people can accept. Their dreams of being a serious and respected musical artist, along with the adoration of millions of fans was the real drug they lived for, and it captivated their minds and souls, to the point that they could not find satisfaction in all of their achievements. So they turned to external things to cope with the deep groaning in their souls for significance and peace.
This issue of LIFE magazine also leads me to ask a deeper question. “Who gets to decide how soon is too soon for someone to pass away”? This has always been an interesting thought to me. Who gets to decide when it is time for a person to leave this world and why does age matter? Do we label a person’s early departure from this life as a tragedy because of their worldly achievements? What if these famous celebrities would have been relatively unknown musicians playing in dirty bars and half-empty night clubs instead of in massive arenas or on national television shows? Would we view their deaths in the same way?
I realize that these questions can make us uncomfortable, but considering the difference between how the world and the Word of God view life and its value differently, as well as death and its timing, it is especially important for us to know what we believe. Our purpose and direction in this life are particularly tied to where we find our identity and hope. We are all groaning deeply within our souls in some way for redemption (Romans 8:22-23), but for those who are of faith in Jesus, our groaning has a glorious end, and the timing of it cannot come soon enough (Romans 8:18).
Life and death are God’s prerogative, and he doesn’t often share what he knows with us about the timing of our departure from this world. While this may cause uneasiness in some of us, the reality is that this is NOT bad news for those who know Jesus. There is never a time in the life of a believer in which death comes too soon, nor are the conditions of our passing greater than the glory we behold once we’ve left behind these broken bodies for eternally completed ones (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
In fact, we are to live in this life in in such a way that points others to the reality of the next life for which we long for so deeply. Sadly, the members of the 27-Club lived for the praise of man, pointing others to themselves and looking for happiness that was only shifting sand beneath their unstable feet.
Romans 8:11 gives us this promise: 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. This promise alone should stir in us a deeper love for God and a more serious commitment to make the most the time we have, for the days are short and the mist of our lives will soon pass. Praise be to God that our short time in this life can be of tremendous impact if we would look to him first and always.
I agree that it is sad that those musical artists died so young, just as I would for any young man or woman. It is hard to accept the loss of a life so young. My sadness is not only in that they are now gone, but that their lives ended in such despair and destruction. Their groaning for redemption led them to self-deception and sorrow. One of the 27-Club members Janis Joplin once said “Don’t ever compromise. You are all you’ve got.” But that is simply not true. Praise be to God that I am not all I’ve got! If all I have is me, then I am without hope. My groaning for redemption is incomplete and will never be content in this life if I only look within myself to be satisfied. The best news is that Jesus Christ meets us where we are and fulfills the longings of our souls, to the degree that our perspective in this life and the next is eternally hopeful and filled with joy! Jesus is all I have, and Jesus is more than enough.