This is a post aimed solely at Christians and, of those who call themselves such, to those who accept the bible implicitly as God’s inerrant and trusted Word and take Him at it without trying to make Him comply with our viewpoint.
I want to explore this concept of health and death from the point of view that you will often hear people stating that if you do x, y or z you will “extend your life” or conversely that if you do certain things wrong you will die young or sooner than society would deem “acceptable” which probably means any age before 90! Now, apart from the fact that we all know many people who don’t fit either camp such as the baby who dies before they’ve even started their life, or the rampant alcoholic who manages to live well into their 70s despite doing everything to “die young” in the eyes of those around them, my contention is that we can do nothing to extend or shorten our lives in that God has determined the length of our days before He granted us life:
Psa 139:16: You saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.
If there was such a case as for us to be able to do anything to change the length of our days by how we live our lives, then it would be us who was in control of life and death and not God and obviously that can’t be possible. However, I do believe we obviously have the facility to determine how we live our days – we can choose to either live them to the fullest and healthiest possible, which in turn will enable us to fully enjoy them, or else we will actively or passively work to live our lives in misery through self-abuse and errant lifestyles, etc, which will leave us spending our days in abject misery and suffering. However, again, God can determine that some of His children will have to go from health to illness in a heartbeat no matter how healthy they may be living their lives prior, but He always gives the means and the grace to cope with those circumstances when the person is fully submitted to His Will and willing to not just learn from the experiences but to use them to glorify Him and many Christians do an awesome job in that respect. I also think it’s quite possible that while He might allow us to have a burden of ill-health, we add to that burden ourselves and make it into something He never intended it to be – e.g much heavier and far harder to let go of.
But I’ve encountered many other Christians who figure that there are many instances where someone was brought back from the dead to live on another x period of time, or where someone was told they were so healthy they’d live for many years only to die a week later because of doing something stupid like taking drugs or whatever. My own dear husband was an alcoholic who couldn’t/wouldn’t accept his disease could kill him soon enough for him to have a chance to overcome it, and thus he died from it at the tender age of 43 just over 10 years ago. I remember vividly how so many people remarked that he was taken too soon, that he could have lived for another x months or years had he accepted his disease at a much earlier stage and actively worked to overcome it, and that he was “too young” to die. At the time, I agreed with each and every statement but I never once felt that we could have done anything to prolong his life, and indeed wouldn’t necessarily have desired to, unless he was going to be healed 100% which I recognised wasn’t the Lord’s Will for him. In many ways I, and his family, felt it was a blessing for Him that the Lord had taken him rather than him continuing to suffer on as he had been, but ultimately I knew that regardless of how he might have lived his life prior, he would still have died on that day at that time.
While I firmly believe you can’t change the day/date etc, I do wonder if you can change the mode of your death e.g a car accident over a plane crash, etc, and also what value can you place on the stories that do appear to grant those who’ve “died” the option of life once again. While it’s another whole ballgame altogether, I feel personally that many people state someone has died, but what they mean is that the person’s heart stopped or they stopped breathing etc – but my view on that is that death doesn’t occur when those things happen because medical intervention can deliberately put the body into such states e.g. a transplant, where despite the heart and sometimes the lungs too being totally removed out of the body, so no heartbeat or breathing etc, the person is not considered dead until perhaps the new organs don’t function and nothing starts them. However, if all goes well, the person wakes up no differently to any other operation so it’s highly unlikely they’ve truly died and been brought back to life again, because again, that would give the surgeons that “God” quality of power over life and death – something I cannot consider humans can ever have. Apart from those in scripture whom God sovereignly granted a true “near death” experience to, Paul stated we die once and that’s it unless you’re not a Christian in which case you die twice:
Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment,
My other contention is that while God is very much in control of the time of our death, I do feel that Satan is the author of (the mode of) death and is thus possibly granted the power to determine how we die but yet God will be very much there in the midst of whatever circumstances come to bear on us to take us into that valley. I believe God absolutely grieves with us in every single death that befalls the human race as that was never His intention when He created mankind, but He knew (and even logic would tell us it could be no other way) that it had to be this way or not at all – unless mankind was given that ultimate choice between good and evil or just a choice as to whether or not to do what He had actually created us for i.e. to love, worship and glorify Him, He would never have that in any sense except by control which in His Amazing Grace He determined wasn’t the way it was going to be. But we sadly have to pay a price for that choice because regardless of how you look at it, it is rebellion against His Will and desire for us, and thus Satan was allowed to bring a curse on mankind that is evident to this day. I’ve maybe not outlined that as eloquently as I’d like, but it’s the gist of how I view things.