My wife’s cousin’s daughter died nine days after she figured in a freak accident in a school activity late last month. At just 13, Ann had a life full of promise cut short. She had been an honor student, an obedient child with a variety of talents.
But why did she die young?
For someone obedient, talented, and intelligent like Anne, her death would prompt questions. Why was she deprived of her youth and opportunities as an adult? And why others who have thrived in years of plunder, misbehavior, and evil deeds continue to exist? That is even if they encounter life-threatening episodes like accidents or debilitating diseases. It is understandable for grieving family members to raise the question of why God has taken her away from them abruptly.
“She was so young, why would God call her to heaven so soon? She never got a chance to live!” some might ask.
I believe it is not God’s punishment that someone dies. We live in a fragile shell called the body. This body houses our souls, and represent our earthly identity, with its distinct physical features. But our body is also subject to the daily rigors in life.
Sometimes, our bodies suffer inherited illnesses or diseases acquired through poor lifestyle. Sometimes a decision by another person causes accidents and inflict injury on our bodies. This has been the apparent cause of Ann’s death and made it more difficult for her family to accept.
So dying early or late has its rational reasons and that was largely due to how we care for our bodies. In some cases, circumstances beyond our control. It can’t be pinned or blamed on God’s wrath or punishment. But also in my personal reflection, when someone like Ann dies young, God keeps them in His Kingdom early, to save her from the detriment of sin she’ll be exposed to as she matures.
If she survived her third-degree burns, Ann might bear the scars for life and endure the agony that deprives her of opportunities growing up. As painful as it is for a parent to bury a child, Ann’s death also offers consolation for her parents that she no longer suffers the damage to her body.
On the other hand, we might raise a question if a notorious criminal continues to live despite incarceration or threats to his or her life.
“Why didn’t that criminal die instead?” some might ask.
I believe God has allowed this person to continue to live so that he or she will have that chance to transform. That transformation might cost life of others, lost properties, broken hearts or other forms of inflicted damage. But ultimately if such experiences lead to personal conversion and redemption from sin, it’s a victory. For others who became the unwilling sacrifice in the process, remember this verse:
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (Jn 12:25)
One thing that is certain is that we will face death at some point. The mystery is when will that be. Some people die young, some people die of old age. With our finite stay here on earth, it is wise to be invested in what awaits us after death. That doesn’t mean giving up everything, but making a conscious effort that while we enjoy the company of family and friends, we are mindful of our ultimate goal.
We may die young, or live for the next several decades, let’s look at what matters: our relationships and how we nurture them. Treat every engagement as if it were our last. Because we don’t know when our (or their) time is up.