I’ve hesitated to write this for a couple of years now. The reason? Because I know, as surely as my name is Stephen, that someone will think that I have specifically targeted this to them. But the truth is that a number of people known to me — both family and friends — have passed away, and each time, I’ve felt that I ought to do this.
Most recently, I attended the service for a saint, co-worker and friend named Wayne Wallace, who lost his long battle with cancer on Memorial Day, 2013. That spurred me to finally write this.
If it seems that I’m answering a question that has been bothering you, then that’s good. But the questions that I’m answering here have been asked repeatedly, each and every time that someone has passed away. You’re not alone.
The only other thing that I need to make clear is that throughout, I am speaking of and to true believers — those who know God personally through His Son, Jesus Christ; those who have accepted and have received Him as Lord and Savior.
First: God’s Point Of View
We view death as separation. We can’t help it; we’re human. We lose a wife, a mother, a grandfather or a best friend. From our point of view, all we know is that they are no longer here. We miss them.
But God doesn’t view death as we do. To Him, when one of His children dies, they are finally leaving this brief, silly existence in a thoroughly unreal world and entering the real world, which is eternity with Him. (Note the terms “unreal” and “real;” they’re important.)
We will not live forever. You are going to die. I am going to die. Most of us understand that, so actually, the question that most of us have when a loved one dies is, “why now?”
Why not later? Why did my loved one have to die right now?
Second: God’s Purpose Isn’t Our Purpose
Again: we can’t help it. We’re human. We are limited to what we can see, feel, hear, smell and touch. Trying to imagine a spiritual struggle that literally takes place worldwide and on levels that we can’t even sense, much less understand, is very hard for us.
We’re like toddlers who are playing in a small wading pool, annoyed when our parents put a stop to the fun.
“Kids! Time to come inside and clean up! And your friend John needs to go home!”
So it is when God looks at one of us and says, “for my own reasons, most of which you couldn’t even begin to understand, it’s time for you to come Home.” All we know is that we were enjoying John’s presence in that wading pool with us and now he’s gone.
No, I cannot tell you why your young child died of cancer … and I especially can’t tell you why another child across town might have been healed of the very same disease. I don’t know. I can certainly sympathize with you and my heart can break for you, but underneath it all, I must accept that God knows what’s best.
Third: Trusting God
Romans 8:28 — we are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. (Amplified Bible)
“Submission” is a term that we don’t use much nowadays. But the Bible makes it clear that (a) we are only on this Earth for an eyeblink out of eternity, and that (b) if we really believe Him, we trust that He knows best. We submit to His will and authority, understanding that God is working out a complex and eternal plan involving billions of people across multiplied thousands of years of human history.
Do you really believe that, or do you just give it lip service in church services once a week?
Our modern definition of terms like “lord” and “prince” are nothing like what they were when the Bible was written. (Likewise terms like, “fear of the Lord” … but that’s for another discussion, elsewhere.)
Now, I certainly have no desire to return to rule by aristocrats(!). Men are fallible, God is not. Men with unrestrained power make terrible Lords; God, on the other hand, who loves us to death and died to prove it, is ideal.
But it’s still a fact that people years ago immediately grasped the concept of “lord.” The key principle was submission. Fealty. You served your lord and that was the end of the matter.
Fourth: Why Didn’t God Heal My Loved One!?
Many (if not most of you) have heard the above verse. It’s one of the cornerstones of the Word of Faith/”Name It And Claim It” movement, if nothing else. You won’t listen to Christian radio or watch Christian television for long without hearing it.
Most of us understand that we won’t live forever. (We’re back to that, “why now?” question.) But how do we reconcile this clear promise with the fact that some people — including young children — become very sick and die, long before what we’d consider “their time?”
God may heal your loved one. But if He does, it will be for His purpose and His plan. If you yourself have had a close brush with death and have lived, the question you should be asking is, “God, you spared me for a reason; what is it? What do You want me to do?”
This question has been debated at length and for many centuries; I can’t possibly cover every answer and objection here. Instead, I’ll just point out the most important principle of all: Folks, the ultimate healing is death. The ultimate deliverance is when we finally shed this sinful mortal flesh and move into eternity, to live in God’s presence forever. If you are still here, it’s for a reason. If you’ve lost a loved one, God must have known that it was for the best.
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 — 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?” (NASB)
I’m going to have much, much more to say in the future, Lord willing. For now: if you’ve recently lost a loved one, I certainly feel for you. I hope that God will heal your heart. But this isn’t just an empty platitude — it really is true, and you need to embrace this: if that loved one died in Christ, he or she is in a much, much better place now.
In fact, if that loved one could come back and speak to you, they would be the first to tell you that. Not only is Heaven a lot nicer than this junky, stinky ball of rock, but God is awesome and His plan is absolutely perfect. It doesn’t focus on one or two people, but on all of His Children through all of history.
All that remains is for us to make sure that we’re part of that plan. I refer you to the Important Part in my Case For A Creator.