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When Young People Die

Having A Savior that is in control in the midst of our chaos.

This article was originally published on August 28th, 2015. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of recent senseless shootings and violence, especially those in San Bernardino, CA and Cairo, Egypt. 

I remember running on a treadmill at the gym last year. I was hitting my groove a few miles in with a steady pace. The perfect workout playlist landed on its best song, but the electricity suddenly went out. My stride was immediately stopped as I lurched toward the front of the treadmill. The music kept playing, my adrenaline was still rushing, but my run was done.

It’s like a sentence that’s halted by an unforeseen period mid-word.

Like a life that should absolutely keep going but is just simply over.

I’ve been to more funerals of people under the age of 30 than I ever want to sit and count. I just sat here and started to try, but it was futile and painful and, to be honest, I was terrified I’d forget one.

It always starts out with a lone phone call or text. “Did you hear about so and so?” Instinctively, I tell myself that the rumors are wrong and that so and so is fine. Maybe it’s just a really bad injury. Maybe the doctors were wrong. Maybe the police identified the wrong guy.

But always, I am wrong. It happened again on a Wednesday morning when we found out that one of the most boisterous, caring, hilarious, and genuine men I know was killed senselessly.

“A career cut short.” “Taken before his time.” “A life ending too soon.”

These phrases—and more like them—have been stated over and over regarding the loss of these young people. My friend, 27, and his coworker, 24, were, in the world’s standards, absolutely too young to die.

But as we hopelessly grapple with what feels like an unjust call home from the Lord, truth tells us otherwise. When do we hit the mark where we are at just the right age to leave this world? Who is “too young to die”? And, most importantly, who are we to set the standards?

The haunting reality is that “his time” was now. Nothing was cut short, nothing ended too soon, and not a second more was planned for my precious friend. In the Lord’s timing, Wednesday, August 26 was the day he was to be called home. While this never makes coping with death easy, it reminds us that, as a nightmare took place that fateful morning and as we gasped in horror, God wasn’t surprised.

Though we say we trust and we console others with vain promises that everything will be okay, it’s easy to blame God and call Him apathetic to the deep mourning of our souls. He’s anything but that, as we see Him weep at the loss of his friend Lazarus in the Scriptures, but His clock of eternity looks vastly different than the clock of this world.

The book of James says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

If we trust that God is sovereign, we trust that the One who knows what tomorrow will bring sketched out all our tomorrows from day one. My friend’s final “tomorrow” meant a grand entrance to heaven and an angelic celebration at the gates. We grieve because we imagine an unfulfilled future, but in faith, we can boast that he’s undoubtedly more fulfilled than he’s ever been, completely and perfectly satisfied in the presence of his King.

While we mourn on earth, solace can be found in the unquestionable knowledge of a plan far greater than what our small minds could fathom. Justice against this tragedy is our righteous cry, but it shouldn’t question the eternal timeline of God.

The reality hurts to grasp, but when young people die, never were they to grow old. Though this does not and should not heal the wounds and despair, it does remind us of the Savior who is in control in the midst of our chaos. The world may wonder of all the “great things” he could have been, but, if we trust that God is sovereign, we can mourn the loss without mourning the “what ifs” of the future.

If I am to be a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes, I hope to be a mist like my friend. His appearance for a little time was filled with joy and laughter, friendship and love, and, as we ache to hear his bellowing voice one last time, he’s sitting with the Almighty One in the most perfect tomorrow ever imaginable.

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Holly Paulette

Holly is in love with good words and wants to share them with the world. She is the wife of a farmer, a diehard Hokie, self-proclaimed indoorsy type, and will never turn down a chocolate chip cookie. She's learning to find herself at the feet of the King of the Universe, who, for some crazy reason, knows her name.

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