‘Is God bothered by human death and dying?’


The ‘Bigger Picture’

Perhaps the thing that bothers people most about suffering today is the sense of waste or futility when loved ones die as a result of illness, evil actions or natural events. Central to the concern is a sense that the life of the deceased individual has somehow been cut short or left unfulfilled – and even for those who have lived a long life. But this is largely a secular perspective on life because the assumption is that the time we have on earth is the only time we have got. A position that runs contrary to spiritual perspectives that Christians (and others) posit in which:

Life => death => afterlife

Imagine a caterpillar on a branch being watched by someone – let’s call the person Jim. As Jim watches, the caterpillar slows to a stop. A few days later, he returns to the place where the caterpillar was last seen and sees that all that remains of it is a lifeless, indistinguishable object on a branch. Around the body a hard layer of shell has formed, disfiguring the caterpillar’s shape. Outraged at this outcome for the poor defenceless creature – okay I’m going a bit over the top here  – the person speaks out angrily at the unfairness of life and the cruelty of a God who would create an insect whose life was so limited, only to bring it to  an ignominious end. Jim’s rant complete, he enters the house and thinks no more of it until….

… a few days later, as he walks along the path close to the tree and notices that a chrysalis shell has formed around the lifeless body of the caterpillar. Moreover, there is a hole in the shell. As Jim watches he sees the shell being discarded by a beautiful butterfly which eventually spreads its wings and flies away. It’s metamorphosis now complete.

Reflecting on events, Jim sees that the caterpillar has been liberated in a way that could not have initially been imagined. Now, he is forced to rethink how that which was once considered tragedy, is  instead a transitory stage to a different life altogether.

Why do I tell that story?

Well…the Christian belief that death is a stage or transition point by which people transfer from this world into the next, challenges the ideas that some people have concerning the necessity for longevity of physical life. Indeed, it could be argued that this future life (the other side of death) brings release for people who are experiencing pain and suffering in this world right now, then death is not necessarily the bad thing that people might suppose it to be. Moreover, it comes to be seen as a staging post through which people pass into a different type of existence. A transition that carries a degree of fear because death is the great unknown but not necessarily the end of life per se.

Could it possibly be that God’s larger plan does not consider death in the same way that humans see it? Might it rather be a staging or transit point from the physical world into the spiritual realm? If so, then death is no longer a tragedy but a positive and one that provides hope and comfort to people in their times of suffering and grief.