Two different gracEmail subscribers wrote this week about the deaths of young soldiers. The first asked: “How do you comfort a mom who lost her young Marine son in Iraq? Her eyes are now hollow and empty. She is just trying to get through the days.” The second writer inquired: “My 19-year-old nephew was recently killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. We need to know why we should pray for the safety of our families if God isn’t going to answer our prayers. How do you bring people to the Lord if all you have to offer is the promise that the closer you get to God, the more testing and suffering you will have to face?”
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The time will come when tears are exhausted and our mind craves understanding. Then it is proper to remember that in this fallen world, dying itself is as natural as being born. This does not lessen the sorrow of untimely death but it speaks to the question of unfulfilled prayer. Unless our loved ones are in severe pain, or have lost all capacity for enjoying awareness and meaningful existence, we normally pray for their continued life. So long as they experience reasonable well-being, we will never think the right time has come for them to die. With this in mind, we can entrust ourselves and those we love into God’s keeping each morning, knowing that he will be with them and with us — in life and in death — and that nothing can separate any of us from his love.
Our view will also become more accurate as we enlarge our scope. Blessed as most of us are with ample food and water, available medical care and generally-safe environments, it is not surprising that we have come to expect all this bounty — along with the longevity it produces and promotes. If we lived in third-world countries where babies often starve, children commonly die of disease and where murderous marauders and armed assassins regularly roam the land, we would not understand our present expectations of long lives and well-being. Many of our world-neighbors need no convincing that they live in a broken world. Instead of asking “Why me?” when bad things happen, we ought realistically to ask “Why not me?”
Most of all, we need to bring into clear focus the reality that death is not the end of the story. Jesus Christ has conquered death and one day he will annihilate it altogether. Then every prayer for long life will be answered, for our children, ourselves and all those we love — indeed, for everyone who knows God and is known by him. Death will give way to eternal life, accidents and sickness will disappear, creation will be redeemed and our perishable mortal bodies will be transformed for splendor, power, incorruption and deathlessness forever. Then we will see that God, to whom we entrusted our children, was indeed faithful. Then we will begin to experience the fullness of God’s eternal purpose and we will know for certain that all previous suffering and sorrow and death was only a temporary and passing distraction.