“Do not resent growing old. Many are denied this privilege.” — Author Unknown
A week ago, a 29 year-old woman went missing in Moncton. Yesterday, at 3:40 in the afternoon, her body was found in a local park. Her name was Alanna Greene.
I haven’t seen Alanna Greene in five years. I met her on a semester abroad program to Oxford University. We were both part of the student leadership team. We only knew each other for four months, but Alanna was intelligent and ambitious. I had no doubt she would do great things with her life. But I certainly never expected that she would only have five years left to do all she was going to achieve. I’m certain she didn’t either. I’m 27– nearly 28– and having someone I knew who was my age die is shocking. When I knew Alana, she was a Christian. I can only hope that her faith carried her through to the end. She wasn’t perfect, but she was one of God’s children, saved by belief in the death and resurrection of Christ for the complete forgiveness of her sins.
At a time like this, there is a looming question of why. Why did God let her die this young? Why was she taken from her family and friends? What is the purpose of it? Will we ever know? And then there is this question, “Can I still trust in a loving God who lets someone this young die?”
People die everyday– young and old alike. Death is a part of what it is to be human. Death is a reality of life. But even so, when it happens to someone we know, we can’t help but question. I don’t know if Alana knew she was going to die, or whether it was an accident that took her so quickly she didn’t have time to understand. My hope though, is this, that Alana Greene knew in the deepest part of her that death is not the final destination, but a gateway into a different life– a better life. While the act of dying may be scary, Christians have nothing to fear on the other side of that dark veil. God will welcome us into his kingdom, taking us into his arms like a loving parent would their child. The immense sense of peace and joy in that place, we cannot comprehend.
But what of death itself? How can a loving God let this happen? Well, all I can say to that is that while God knows death is painful for humans, he too knows it is not the end. And while he doesn’t want his children to be in pain, he has also given humans the free will to make decisions that resulted in sin entering our world. He continues to give us freewill to make choices– to keep us from simply becoming puppets on string. He wants a relationship with all his creation, but he has given us the right to choose. Because humans often choose wrong, there is pain and death. It is that simple.
This I know. God is love. Only a God of love would come down to earth in the form of his son– God personified, the limited edition– and serve him up to death on a cross that he might save us from ourselves and the sin that has us in its clutches. Only a God of love would be so kind as to sacrifice his perfection to cover our screw-ups. He had no reason to do this, except for love.
It is hard to understand death. As humans, we can never fully understand why some are taken, and others are not. It is easy to say that we believe in an omnipotent God, a God who controls all things, and cares deeply for that which he has created, when everything seems to be going well. But when things get tough, when human comprehension fails, all of a sudden we start questioning God, like we know what is best. But to truly believe, to truly know that the creator of the universe also cares for each individual human, while being in control of the cosmos, both in the past, present and future, and that nothing is beyond his power, suggests that even though we may not understand, we have to believe that there is a bigger purpose. This purpose we cannot understand with our limited field of vision within the here and now. We are like a horse with blinders on. We can only see what is directly in front of us to the exclusion of all that is around us. It is at this point that we must make the choice to trust ourselves, and the sliver of the world we can see, or trust God to do the driving and acknowledge that his field of vision is so much wider than ours, that he can truly work towards a bigger purpose.
Alanna Greene will be missed by friends and family alike. According to the RCMP, there is no foul play suspected. I don’t know what this means for how she died; all I know is that I don’t truly understand. So much life left to live. But in the midst of that I know that there is life beyond the grave, and that just because her life on this earth has come to an end, I can still hope to see her again when I come into the kingdom.