Where was God when terrorists gunned down Christians in Kenya? Where was God when a sex trafficker snatched a pre-teen? Where was God when a drug dealer started selling product at the middle school or the frat guys gang raped a co-ed or a career criminal opened fire on the cop who pulled him over. Where was God when a three-year-old was diagnosed with cancer?
Atheists would have us believe that evil things happen with no purpose and purely for random, unplanned reasons. A good many others blame God, either for causing evil or for doing nothing to stop it.
The thing we rarely take into account is that, short of creating humans without the freedom to make up our own minds, God did put up the stop sign to evil here on earth. Humankind simply ran through it.
God said, Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or you will die. Adam essentially said, If I die, I die, and he ate. The result was similar to uncorking a deadly airborne pathogen in a sterile room. Once it’s uncorked, there’s no calling it back into the vial it came from.
But God didn’t create humans for death. He made us for life. Consequently, death, no matter when it comes, seems wrong.
We might think a person who has lived a long, fruitful life is ready to go. But why? If their life is fruitful, why should it be limited? Why should someone who has gained a life-time of knowledge and experience not be able to capitalize on all that learning and wisdom?
Is it right for a fifty-year-old mom to die of cancer instead of the three-year-old toddler? Wouldn’t it be better for her to live and mentor her children through their own marriages and child-bearing years?
How about the thirteen-year-old who’s killed in an accident on the way to school? Is it better for him to die than for that three-year-old cancer victim? Or maybe the three-year-old should live but the thirty-something school teacher with cancer should die instead.
The point is, it’s never “right” to die—except that God has our times in His hands.
I don’t know what that means exactly, except that God looks at the big picture. His perspective takes into consideration eternity, not just the few temporal years we live on earth.
Most of us focus on this life and bemoan a life taken “prematurely.” We think about the high school prom she’ll never attend or the promotion he’ll never receive, the wedding they’ll never have, the first steps of their children they’ll never get to see. In other words, we think in terms of the good things in this life that they’ll miss out on.
But I think our perspective is too small. Part of this, of course, is that we don’t know what life after this life will be like—not really. We’ve been fed a lot of false images—people turning into angels with wings, walking around in a fog (when they’re not sitting on a cloud), all dressed in white, talking to Peter a lot or playing a harp. Frankly, those are undesirable snapshots. I can’t think of very many people who would think, Oh, boy, I get to trade in this life for that one.
But that’s the falseness of it. The bit we do know from Scripture lets us know that life after this life will be exceedingly better. For one we’ll trade in the “corruptible” for the “incorruptible.” We will no longer face the limitations of illness or aging because we won’t be fight off death any more. We won’t deal with suffering and sorrow—gone will be the injustices and the wickedness that infiltrate this life.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:53-57)
Scripture uses the image of a seed and the plant that comes from it as a metaphor to explain life after this life. This body is the seed that “dies” only to produce a lush, fruitful plant. So the body and the life we know here and now are the equivalent of a seed. The body and the life we will know for eternity are the equivalent of a flowering plant. So we’re comparing a single grain to a stalk of wheat.
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” . . . It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:35. 42b-44)
If we could choose, who would say, But I really, really prefer the single grain. It’s so satisfying, so filling. I’d rather have it than a full shock of wheat that produces an unending amount of grain.
Clearly that’s a foolish position, but that’s precisely what we do. We are so in love with this life that we can’t imagine what life will be like beyond what we see here and know today.
I remember when I got my first electric typewriter. I could not imagine personal computers, email, the Internet, smart phones, or tablets. I was content with what I had because I didn’t know about what would be. If you’d told me you were going to take away my typewriter, I would have balked. I can’t do my work without my typewriter, I would have said. Wrong. That view was simply shortsighted, based on my limited perspective.
So too with life after life. We certainly weren’t created to die, but death is not the end of all good things.
When we rail against God for allowing death, we have it wrong. God has given us life, at the cost of His own suffering and sacrifice.
Leaving this life doesn’t mean the end of all good things. In fact, leaving this life for those who accept the work of Jesus Christ, who believe in Him, is the beginning of life that is life indeed!