Sad news published in all the papers today is that Sarah Harding has died from breast cancer. Sarah, 39, was a member of the successful girl group Girls Aloud who had major success after they were formed as part of a TV series Popstars: The Rivals. Sarah was, without doubt, a beautiful and talented singer but I must admit to being surprised at the depth of the emotional outpouring following her death. But then again, I’m not. I think what’s struck a chord with people is the age at which she died. Medical science has advanced so much but not enough to help Sarah and she’s been taken at a relatively young age, just 39.
It’s always bad when someone dies young. We have a phrase for it, “dying before their time” and we struggle to understand why it happens. We have first-time parents screaming out loud when a longed-for child is stillborn. We have children walking out the front door and never returning alive to their parents. We have hospitals filled with young children with incurable diseases. We have young people filled with hopes and dreams that are never fulfilled. The list goes on and on.
To the question “Why my child?” there is no answer. I’ve been there so I understand the pain it causes not to have the clarity to go alongside the loss of a child. Many people blame God for it. If there is a loving God why did he let this happen? I’m fortunate because I’ve never felt that way. I saw no reason to blame God for what is a sad part of life. Some die at an advanced age, some die young.
The reason I’ve never blamed God is that I find in the Bible the reason for everything that is wrong with the world today. A perfect world given to us by a loving God was corrupted by sin. Sin has impacted the whole of creation, bringing death into the world and running rampant as a destructive force. It affects humans, the animal kingdom, the earth itself. All that is bad is caused by sin and that wasn’t God’s fault. It’s not God’s fault that death sometimes comes early.
When I look at my Bible I read that “God is love.” (1) It’s not just a trite phrase, it’s a succinct summary of all that God is. In his character and his actions love sums him up. Everything he does is motivated by love. He hates what sin has done to his world and when we mourn the loss of a child so does he. When we grieve over someone dying at 39 so does he. This was never the plan for his creation. His plan was, and is, that God and man will live in perfect harmony for eternity. There will be no sin, no pain, no death. Never again will children die young. Never again will breast cancer take a relatively young life. Never again will sickness and disease dominate our existence.
To ensure that sin and death are finally defeated God himself endured an early death. How is that possible? God the Son became a man called Jesus and as a man he died on a cross, executed as a criminal although he never committed a crime. As a man he was only 33 years old when he died. A wasted life some would say. He was such a brilliant teacher who had so much more to offer, but those people don’t understand why he became a man. He became a man so that he could die. We’re told in the Bible that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (2) We’re also told, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.” (3) The sin that has plagued mankind and badly damaged this creation since it first entered the world in the Garden of Eden, that sin was dealt with once for all at Calvary when Jesus died. We’re now in a period of reclamation, where God is bringing back to himself people whose sins have kept them away from him. How does he do it? Via his love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (4)
How could I ever blame God for the loss of my child when I know he gave up his child for me?
- 1 John 4:8
- 1 Timothy 1:15
- 1 Peter 2:24
- John 3:16