I have a widowed neighbor in Boise who lives part-time on her ranch in Idaho, not far from Yellowstone. In this town, where she grew up, there have recently been several unexpected deaths. Because of this, she asked if I could help answer one question on behalf of her neighbors there. She asked, “Why does a loving God allow so much heartache and death, especially amongst those in this small town who have lived good and decent lives?”
Perhaps you might be asking the same question, and here is my answer to her.
Life is eternal because God made it that way for each of us. When we die and one day each of us will, we do not cease to exist because God created us with the hope that we will live with Him forever. And beyond this world, God has a plan for each of us; if we respond to His grace, that will far surpass anything we have experienced on earth. If we have put our faith in Christ for salvation, then death ends up being nothing more than a door to immeasurable joy, peace, and fulfillment in the next part of our lives.
I John 5:11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
In addition to this, sometimes God will either make or allow things to happen to get our attention in this life. The death of a friend, loved one, or neighbor can do this. Why is our attention so important to Him? To remind us again that life goes beyond this earth; it is eternal. It is also to remind us that life can come to an end at any moment, through any circumstance, so the message is to make the most of the time left, particularly in respect to Him. As He said in the book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time to be born and a time to die, and God determines that.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die.
Conversely, the world will tell us that a loving God would never let tragedy come about. So, why believe in Him when it does? But this is the world’s thinking, which always falls short when it comes to answering what is true about this life. No matter what happens, good or bad, God’s love is always in play; it never wavers, especially during a tragedy. He knows what He is doing when He allows difficult circumstances to occur, especially those where loved ones have died. Yet for them, if they have put their trust in Christ, they are in heaven enjoying their time with God and preparing for the next phase of their lives in His plan. While this is going on, His goal for us who are left behind is to increase our faith or perhaps even come to salvation for the first time. We do this by repenting of our sins, as He asked us to do, and making Jesus the Lord of our lives.
Romans 10:9-10 If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’
Sad to say, though, when life is on an even keel, void of trouble and absent of heartache, we often do not even think about God at all, nor do we seek to do His will. However, when tragedies hit, we think about Him a lot, and He knows this about us; after all, He created each of us! So, embrace tragedies when they come; it is one of several ways God renews, strengthens, or begins our faith, which is more precious to Him than gold.
1Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Finally, is God unloving when He allows the ones we know and love to die or suffer a disease that will soon take their lives? No, for heaven is being experienced by those who trusted Him and awaits others who have done the same and are near the day of their departure. Meanwhile, God is working on each of us during these circumstances to build our faith or bring us to salvation for the first time.
Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
In my book, Always There to Repair (52 Devotions and Stories bringing Hope, Restoration, and Perspective), I have included three articles on God’s purpose and intention for allowing death, Coming and Going, A Mother to Remember, and First Days in Heaven.
(You can get a copy from Amazon.com.)