I know that the Bible tells us that man is appointed to die. That from dust we came, and to dust we return.
My question relates to what purpose a painful, terrifying death serves in God's plan. I realize that illness and tragedy can affect anyone at any age, but what purpose would God have (for example) for someone being trapped in a wrecked car and burning alive? I could give other examples of terrifying deaths that we all hear on the nightly news, but my question is: what is the purpose of the "way" we die? Why some die painlessly while others suffer a lonely, frightening death?
I don't think I have the definitive answer, but as a person who has experienced various kinds of pain in my life, I know a little bit about the kinds of things God accomplishes in us during times of great pain.
A painful death is really just another life experience, so it doesn't belong in a special category. One of the things that we unfortunately can't know, because death prevents any communication with the departed, is the testimony of God's faithfulness and power and glory in that horrible experience. His grace, presence and aid is available to those undergoing awful deaths if they are willing to receive it.
It seems to me that because pain can serve to develop character and deepen the heart, it's entirely possible than a difficult death can be the final experience of pruning and preparation for life after death.
Those who "suffer a lonely, frightening death" are in a particularly wide-open position to experience the compassion and presence of the God who promised "Lo, I am with you always" (Matt. 28:20). Just as even the smallest light is more appreciated in the deepest dark, I would suggest that the light of God's presence and love might be more apparent in a horrible death.
The testimonies of many of the martyrs who died excruciating deaths for the love of their Savior yet radiated God's peace and grace in the midst of great pain, is one of the things that leads me to this conclusion.
Granted, this would be about the death of believers. What is the purpose of a horrible death for unbelievers, I cannot say, but I still believe it has something to do with the light of God contrasted with the darkness of the heart.
The bottom line is that it is a mystery, I think, but this is the best I can do.
About the Author
Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 35 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Connections), and serves on the board and as a small group leader of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women's Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org's Tapestry Blog. She is also a professional calligrapher and the webmistress for Probe Ministries; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075