Death, Sorrow, and God

Sad teen near window. Unhappy girl at home
Steave Gipson is pastor at the Church of Christ of Exeter.

I got news today that a teenage girl I knew has passed away. She had attended our church. Her best friend is my friend’s daughter. Everyone is shocked, numb, devastated. It’s difficult to comprehend that a healthy, vibrant, sweet young lady could be suddenly… gone. Right now, I’m wrestling with existential dread all parents must face when a child is lost. I’m looking for answers. We all are.

How can things go so suddenly and disastrously wrong? This was a young lady who loved God; God loved her. So, why? Why does pain or despair sometimes just strike us like a bolt of lightning? 

A lot of people will take comfort in the thought that “everything happens for a reason.” “Whatever bad thing happens, God must have a good reason for it,” they tell themselves. I personally cannot think of a good that would come from a child’s death that would make me grateful that they had died.

Many Christians draw these painful, misleading conclusions from Romans 8:28. This is, I believe, a misapprehension of Scripture. It actually says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God’s Truth, then, is that many tragic things occur in this life. His promise is that no matter how much tragedy enters our lives, God will put them to holy, eternal, beneficial purpose. That doesn’t mean God wants evil to befall us.

So, then, why would he not save the life of a young lady who loves him? The truth is that often, he does. There are obvious times in my life where God has intervened to rescue me from death. It stands to reason that there are other times when he saved me and it wasn’t so obvious. Similarly, God has brought miraculous healing to people over whom I and others have prayed.

So, then, why did he allow this? We cannot know for sure; only He knows. What we can say is that none of this was God’s idea. We can also say that there will be a future time in which death and sorrow will cease. So, then, why is there pain and death in the world?

To answer that, we have to go back to the Beginning. God made a world that was good. Men and women did not fall ill and die. They walked with God, standing in His glory. They were filled with love and peace and comfort. But God gave them an option to walk away and “be their own.” After all, He wanted a garden, not a prison. Unfortunately, His people determined to make their own choices. They chose defiance of God. I have chosen defiance of God, and so have you. We can’t have it both ways.

So here we sit, desperately missing that peace, love, and protection we could have in our Creator. The good news is that He will fix the problem. Although we rejected Him, He has made peace with us. If we accept the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we can be near God again. God will, one glorious day, send His Son to earth to destroy evil and death. Unfortunately, those who are not in Christ will be destroyed as well. So, we must work to be in Christ and bring others to Him.

And then, finally, we all will be right.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” – Revelation 21:3–4 (ESV)

Until then, be patient, be Holy, and come to Jesus Christ. Give your kids a big hug tonight.

Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Community Church.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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