Why do some die young, while others live long lives? We can come up with all of our fanciful ideas as to why God lets one person live and takes another.
I heard them all, after my son Christopher went to heaven. People would say things like, “Maybe God was saving him from something bad,” or “It’s just that God wanted another angel (or flower) in heaven.” The list goes on.
I fall back on the fact that I will probably never know why God called him home so young. And even if I did, I seriously doubt that I would understand.
But one day I will. The Bible promises that, saying, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now” (1 Corinthians 13:12 nlt).
So why does God take choice servants “before their time”? For example, Stephen was a young man, and yet he became the first martyr of the early church. In Stephen’s case, God used it to get the believers, who seemed to be “landlocked” in Jerusalem, out of their comfortable “holy huddle” and take the gospel to the other regions.
Because of the wave of persecution against the church following Stephen’s death, the believers spread out, and so did the gospel. Then, the very man hunting them ended up coming to Christ! I am speaking, of course, of Saul of Tarsus who became the great apostle Paul. Regardless, it was still a great tragedy that a man died so young, and many godly people wept when he died.
Why does he allow torment for some, and triumph for others? No one can say this side of heaven. The Bible tells the story of the wicked King Herod, who arrested and executed the apostle James. This was James, the brother of John, who was a close personal friend of Jesus when He walked this earth.
Just like that, he was gone. Seeing that this pleased the religious leaders who were not fond of the growing Christian church, Herod went and arrested Simon Peter, their leader. It looked like the end for the great fisherman, but the believers prayed and God delivered Peter from his prison and he lived to preach another day.
Why did James die, and Peter go free? It’s hard to say. Life just doesn’t make sense a great deal of the time. But God has His purposes that often remain a mystery to us.
When we say that someone “died before their time,” we falsely assume that everyone has the unwritten promise of a long life. We operate by the greeting of Spock from Star Trek, “Live long and prosper!”
The Bible makes no such guarantees. The Bible says that our times are in His hands. It also tells us that “there is a time to be born, and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2 nlt). We don’t really get any say regarding the date of our birth or death.
Then again, we have a lot to say about that space in the middle: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 nkjv). To “number our days” means to make the most of our time.
Here’s what it boils down to:
- Don’t take any of your loved ones for granted.
- If there is someone you need to tell that you love them, do it now!
- If there is a change you need to make in your life, do it now!
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!