Standing next to the coffin of someone you loved dearly is tough. You are struck by the finality of it all. Here is someone you have known and loved your whole life, and now that person is gone. Out of your life forever. You won’t hear his voice again, nor feel his warm embrace or hear his laugh rumble through the room. It is hard to deal with.
Yet all of us have to go through that at some time or other. People whom we love do pass on, and we have to deal with it. It is the one sure thing. And it does raise questions, but surely the one I was asked most often over the last few days is this:
“Why does God allow death?”
Why would a loving God, a God who say that He doesn’t merely love, but that He is love, allow His children to be traumatized by this experience of dying and having to deal with death?
In answering this question, one has to be careful not get emotionally carried away, but to try and see things how God sees them, and how He would want us to see it. I can of course never claim to speak for God, but can try to offer some perspectives on death and dying.
Firstly, death is the consequence of sin. Rom 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned..”. God allows death to show that sin has consequences. Of course, death here may be seen as throughout the Bible as both the physical and spiritual death. We read in early Biblical history that before sin man was apparently immortal, but that after sinning, his days were “numbered”. Physical and spiritual death is closely linked in the Bible, with physical death as the metaphor for eternal spiritual death, the permanent separation from God. With death confronting us in a very real physical way, we get to see the nasty consequences of our sin up close.
I think God also allows death and the resulting overwhelming sadness so that we can know how He feels about the death of sinners. God loves His children more than we can comprehend, and He grieves for everyone who is dead in their sins, just as He rejoices for those saved from their sins. The sadness we feel about the death of a loved one is so that we may feel what God feels for those who die in their sin, without grace.
And additionally, so that we may experience the sadness that went along with the death of Jesus. If we are so sad about the death of someone close to us, then how sad should we be for the death of our Christ? For the most part, we don’t cause our loved ones to die, yet we caused the death of Christ. It is our very sinfulness that caused the innocent son of God to be tortured to death, yet for the most part we feel no remorse. How sad was the Father for His Son? Probably just as sad as we feel standing next to the coffin of a loved one. Yet He freely gave up His son so that we may escape the eternal spiritual death, and so that those who stay behind may have hope.
Even though death is a nasty experience, it serves a purpose to remind us of our fleeting physical existence as opposed to the eternal existence of God, and our own eternity to follow. And even as we grieve for our own dead, we know that we have the hope that comes from Christ for both ourselves and our loved ones. And we know that God is equally distraught over the death of sinners, and for His own Son, yet rejoices in having His children with Him. For all eternity.