FAQ About death - some perspectives

Why did God let this happen?

Practically speaking death is a necessary and important key to planetary survival. Imagine if we didn't die! At one level death is a sign of God's providence because without it we would not have sustainable life. But probably you accept this and your question is actually about the nature of God.

If he is good and just (as we are told) then why do bad things happen to good people and if he is all-powerful (as we are also told) then why doesn't he stop those things happening? In the Old Testament Book of Job the answer to the question is more or less summed up as "Mind your own business. I'm God and my methods are so out of your league that you cannot possibly understand" But I'm not sure how much that helps when you are devastated by death.

The way I see it is that God created a world that works on some basic principles (gravity and evolution, for example.) How just and good would it be if God changed the rules for some people and not for others? How just would he be if he reversed gravity so that a young Christian falling off a mountain would not hit the ground and die? If he refused to let one sort of life form evolve and mutate because it might affect someone he loved? Some accidents, illnesses and, yes, deaths, happen because that is the way of a world created in love and permitted to evolve and flourish freely. God did not pick on your parent/child/partner. The world just happened to them. I think he technically has the power to stop bad things happening but I also think that for the sake of justice and freedom he has a moral obligation not to do things that undermine the basic laws on which the world is built.

But he is with you in your suffering. He is with you in those who help and try to heal and he will redeem the tragedy. In part he already has because the chances are that because of Jesus' resurrection your loved one is in glory with Him. He will build on the ashes of your despair too in time.

I prayed for a miracle and God didn’t listen

We don't know why miracles sometimes happen and usually do not. I do not accept that it is anything to do with judgement of the faith or morality of the person who does not receive the miraculous healing as some Churches might suggest but I am lost for an explanation. For me it is a given that God wants the very best for each one of us and so perhaps in some instances the best is actually the ultimate healing of death. Perhaps he listens better than we think. The more I see of the officious determination that nobody shall die even if their lives turn into a protracted hell of suffering, infirmity, dependence and indignity - just because others cannot face saying goodbye - the more I think that God is very likely right.

Where is he/she now?

Christians the world over debate the issue of who gets to heaven and who doesn't. This is because the Bible makes many statements which people tend to assume are exclusive. I have a fairly liberal view of whether any given person finds their way to heaven because Jesus died for all of mankind. Not just for holy people. He rose again so that death stopped being final and to enable God's people to go to be with God for all eternity. Some people say that only those who affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ can go to heaven. Personally I wouldn’t want to second-guess God in the matter of salvation. Maybe he does not have a simple tick box set of criteria as we tend to assume! Good to the poor? Tick. Repented of sins? Tick? Regular worshipper? Uh oh. Believed that Jesus is the living son of the living God? Tick.

I think that we need by our very last breath to want God to be real and to repent of the harm we have done. I cannot truthfully say that everyone who dies regardless of faith zooms off to heaven because I don't know. I think that it is possible because God's grace and mercy are massive - much bigger than we imagine. Yet he is a just God who cannot tolerate Sin and not some benign old grandpa who permits bad behaviour all day and then doles out sweets at bedtime!

I hope that those who you love are in heaven but I cannot be entirely certain. God moves in mysterious ways. Pray for them and consider growing your own faith.

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