My atheist friend who lives right across the street from her and they were very close…asks me tonight, ‘If there's a God, why would He let her die alone? While doing God's work??’ I didn't have an answer for him. Help me understand.The following is my reply. I pray it will bring comfort and greater understanding to you; for we all must face --and most of us already have faced--death. When we face it we need answers, comfort, and hope. We find all of these things in Christ. May God bless your reading.
*******************As for your friend's question and our need for understanding: several things come to mind. First, we cannot know, with specificity, why God does what He does. Even in scripture, we see God acting in the lives of the saints; but He rarely if ever explains Himself. (For example, Stephen in Acts 7. He was murdered while he was preaching Christ--doing God's work. With the exception of John, every single Apostle of our Lord was martyred--doing God's work. And Jesus told the people that they had killed all of the Old Testament prophets, as well. Jesus Himself was murdered--doing God's work.)
Certainly, God has revealed Himself and His moral will in scripture; but when it comes to saying "why" God does what He does--especially outside the content of scripture--we really lack solid warrant. In other words, it is presumptuous of us to speak for God apart from the revelation of scripture. [Unfortunately, this doesn't stop many folks from doing so--Pat Robertson and the like.]
Second, Jesus was confronted with "why do bad things happen to good people" in Luke 13:1-5. I would encourage you to read this passage. Notice, Jesus doesn't say "why" tragedies occur. His twice stated response was, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (3,5). When tragedies/deaths occur, they should not provoke us to anger towards God but to repentance before God.
That is, we know why humans die (Rom 5:12). The physical and spiritual death of man resulted from Adam's sin. We know that because of sin, Adam's and our own, we will all die in due time. Yet, to this point, God has mercifully given us life and opportunity to repent. When we are confronted with death, we are reminded of this. This is how Jesus instructs us to contemplate such things.
Third, your friend's questions [Which are actually statements to the effect: There is no God!] are not rational but emotional. That is, he is not questioning God's existence rationally, but emotionally. And this is understandable. He loved Sylvia. Anger is a common emotional response to pain. Your friend's pointed statements in the form of questions [though I don't want to be insensitive to his genuine need] reminds me of what Vox Day wrote in his book "The Irrational Atheist." He says the atheist's creed goes something like this: "1)There is no God and 2) I hate Him."
The fact is, there's just no rational reason to see human death as evidence for the non existence of God. The atheist wants to have his cake and eat it too. The atheist who insists that human life is NOT evidence for God's existence; is the same atheist who insists that human death IS evidence for God's non existence. (This is true of human life and death in general, and in particular. Was Sylvia's exemplary life evidence for God's existence? Your atheist friend is obliged to say "No." Was her seemingly untimely death evidence for God's non existence? Your atheist friend says "Yes.") One simply cannot have it both ways--not if one wishes to think rationally and consistently.
As for the question: “If there is a God, why would He [God] let her die alone?” First, I would insist that Sylvia died “alone” only if your friend’s worldview is correct. He knows there were no other people around, but he ASSUMES there was no God around. But we do not concede his assumption. The scripture is clear: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Cor 5:8). It is impossible for the believer in Jesus to die “alone.” Upon death, the believer is welcomed into the immediate presence of the Lord. The scriptures are abundantly clear concerning this.
From the Christian worldview, no believer in Christ dies “alone.” However, from the atheist worldview, all people, in the final analysis, die “alone.” Many times I’ve been around death and dying. Most of the time family members have been present. And yet, when the final breath was taken--the gathered family remained while the loved one departed. From the atheistic worldview--who was with the departed upon their departure? Not God, not anyone.
In fact, from the atheistic worldview, upon the death of the loved one, there is no loved one. They have ceased to be entirely. According to atheism, the deceased have no more being. No soul. No self. No consciousness. According to atheism, death must be “alone” and is the absolute loss of being. Thus, the question now is: According to atheism, what does it really matter if one dies “alone”?
If the atheist is correct and death is the total loss of being, not only does it NOT matter how one dies; but ultimately, it does not matter how one lives. Which brings us to the quandary of God’s allowing Sylvia to die while she was “doing God’s work.” Doing God’s work is not a matter of dying but of living.
Sylvia was doing exactly what she wanted to do. She was serving the Lord. I can think of a plethora of things I could be doing just before dying. None of them are more significant or rewarding than serving Christ. Sylvia met her Master whom she had just seconds before been actively serving. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
Some die young and others die old. Some die very quickly and others so very slowly. If I had my way I’d die old and very quickly--and painlessly with all of my mental and physical capacities. These things are not in our power, but God’s. But we do know that if we live in Christ, we shall die in Him and resurrect in Him. This is our great comfort in this life and our assured hope for the life to come.