My daughter asked me that question when she was five years old. My grandmother had just died and she could see the pain and grief in our family. “No, honey,” I replied, “but it should be.”
I was reminded of her question because this past weekend I buried a ten year old boy. He is the same age as my youngest son. In fact, they played on the same basketball team at the YMCA two years ago. His name was Ryan. He was a great kid from a great family. He was full of life and energy. He was killed in a tragic accident on a playground. One minute he was playing, the next minute he was gone.
His life was short, too short. The words tragic, senseless, unbelievable just don’t communicate the depth of loss that our entire community felt when we heard what happened. This isn’t the way a young, good life is supposed to end. And the void he leaves is too big to fill, even with all our tears.
We are left asking hard questions? How could God let something like this happen? Was this God’s will? Why didn’t God do something about it? In our gut we know this isn’t right. Something tells us in our hearts that this is not the way life is suppose to be. We want answers.
I don’t pretend to have answers to all of these questions. I don’t know why we suffer tragedies like this. I don’t know why some people get cancer or die in a car accident. The world is broken. We experience pain, sorrow, despair, and tragedy. And death is no respecter of persons – even little boys. I can’t answer why God allows a freak accident to take Ryan’s life.
But I do know this: Ryan’s life, not his death, was and remains God’s will. I can’t answer why God didn’t do something that day on the playground to save Ryan’s life. But I can tell you that God did do something to save Ryan’s life before Ryan was even born.
God sees the brokenness of this world. He understands the pain, hurt, and sorrow we experience in our lives. He knows what it is like to lose a son. God experienced how tragic, senseless, and unbelievable death is and He did something about it. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty of sin so that we might live forever. And when Jesus died, God raised Him back to life. Jesus has overcome death and because He lives, we will live to.
You see, God took the long view. Can you see it from His perspective? Do you hear His words to us, “I am the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26. That is and remains God’s will for Ryan, for you, for me, for everyone! Death does not have the final word on life. Jesus secures for us eternal life. This is the hope we have in the midst of our pain and sorrow.
But our hope is bigger yet. Revelation 21:1-7, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
It has been said, Christianity is optimism with scars. We know that this world is broken and we are broken right along with it. We bear those scars. But the scripture we read speaks of the optimism, the hope we have. It tells us what God’s will is and what He is doing about it. He is going to take this broken world and start over. A day is coming when God, Himself, will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain are gone. He is going to make all things new.
Ryan’s mom told me of a dream she had the night he died where she saw Ryan and he told her, “I’m ok. They fixed me.” She asked, “How?” He didn’t give any answers. He just grinned.
I’ve got good news. God’s not going to stop with just Ryan. He is going to fix it all. He’s going to make all things new. And so with scars on our hearts, we can say with confidence, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”