When someone dies, particularly a young person, we often hear the statement that the person met an untimely death. Psalm 116:15 reads “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” God rejoices when His people have reached the point that they have fulfilled His mission for them on earth. In talking about untimely death, we must take at least two perspectives – the earthly, or human view and the eternal or Godly view.
The Earthly Perspective
From an earthly perspective an untimely death is one that is unexpected or before it was expected to happen. It may be sudden. When this occurs, friends and family do not have the opportunity to prepare for the loved one’s death, therefore it can be a shock, perhaps with regrets that we can no longer interact with that person. A hole has been created in our lives. We do not understand why that person died. We may think of the unfulfilled potential of a life that is no longer.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with us feeling that way. Anytime unexpected bad news happens, we may feel shock, grief, sadness, emptiness, loss of direction among other feelings. We may need an extended period of healing from the loss. Sensitive and significant support may be helpful to the bereaved. There is no “formula” on how to help the individual. Support should be tailored to the needs of the individual. Telling them to “Just get over it” will not be productive. Each of us reacts differently to losses in our lives.
A person that was a part of our lives is no longer with us. That creates a hole in our lives that must be dealt with. God created us for community. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34. When we love, when we let someone be a part of our lives, we make ourselves vulnerable. When that person is gone, a void is created. The loss, the grief, will still be there but these feelings ease over time. We should be able to accept the loss and move forward. Our community can help us as we move forward.
The Eternal Perspective
Richard Rice wrote “God has given all of us life. And that life has been redeemed by the life of Jesus Christ! Our lives belong to God. He loves us with a fervent love, and is infinitely concerned with our earthly welfare and eternal destiny! God, then, being in control, will allow only that which is BEST according to His wisdom and eternal plan! If He allows tragedy, such as untimely death, to occur, we can trust in God that it will serve a good and rightful purpose in His plan.” We certainly can’t know His plan, and we can’t always understand why God moves as He does. There are several reasons why God allows death that we might view as untimely.
God allows us to die when our purpose on earth has been fulfilled. Fulfilling one’s purpose has nothing to do with age. One person may have fulfilled God’s purpose for his/her life at a young age. Others may be in their seventies and still searching for God’s purpose. I think that if we are still around, God still has something for us to do. Jesus died at age 33, which we might say was untimely, but he accomplished His purpose. John 19:30 records Jesus’ last words “It is finished.” His purpose was accomplished.
Richard Rice also states “When one is willing to forego his life in whatever way God chooses, or for whatever purpose it serves in His Work, he has passed his greatest earthly test. There is none greater!” Jesus said in Matthew 16:25: “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
Our life is more than how long we live. Some can accomplish much in just a few years, others may live into their nineties, still with purpose. Our time on earth is fleeting, regardless of the number of years we live here. The essence of our life is how we live it for God. Paul, In Philippians 1:21-22 said “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” Paul lived for Christ and had a perspective of heavenly life. Knowing what awaits us in eternity, what is more desirable? Life on this broken planet or eternity with God?
As a child I once thought it would be wonderful to live until I reached age 100. I might make it there, I might not. But that is no longer my goal. I strive to live each day He gives me for Him. We are all just passing through. Does it really matter how long we are here?
Please bear in mind that I believe eternity begins when we receive Christ. But when we pass from this life into the next, an eternity awaits us that is greater than anything our human minds can conceive.
Why did Christ die? To state the obvious, Christ died for our sins, He died to give us eternal life. He did not die to give us a long life on earth. Why would we want a long life when we know what lies before us? I like the translation of Psalm 90:12 in the New Living Translation “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Be aware of our limited time on earth, use it productively.
On earth, we have a limited perspective, a finite time. The earthly existence is all we have ever known. But, if we follow Christ, we have a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 reads “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” That future consists of eternity with the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – “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.”Revelation 21:4.