We've Been Wrestling
for 3000 Years
"I know I shouldn't feel this way," a woman we'll call Janice once told me, "but I resent my brother-in-law." She explained that her husband "Peter" and his twin brother "Jack" both had the same incurable disease. Peter was the first to die of it, and from his autopsy doctors learned enough to keep Jack alive for several years more.
For Janice that was the rub. Although Peter and Jack were identical twins, they were day and night as far as their personalities were concerned. "Peter was so kind and considerate," Janice said, her eyes misting. "He was the model husband. But Jack! Every day is a struggle just to get along with him." Janice fails to understand why God would let the better man die and keep the lesser one alive years longer.
Even allowing that Janice, in her widow's grief, idealized her husband's memory while exaggerating her brother-in-law's faults, let's take such wrestling seriously. It does seem that God often spares the wicked person and allows the righteous to die before his or her time. Doesn't this seem to contradict Psalm 37:27-29 and similar passages that promise the righteous will live long and prosper, while the wicked will soon be cut off?
Psalm 73 shows this wrestling has gone on for 3000 years, and Job may be even older. May I offer a few ideas? God has a different perspective. Eternity sees our life span as a breath, a wisp of smoke, a mist (Job 7:7; James 4:14; Ps. 102:3). Does it really matter if smoke lasts three seconds or eight? Besides, life isn't measured just by its length, but also by its breadth, its depth, and its height. Plus Peter's death was a blessing to Jack, who really needed blessings if he was ever going to change.
Beyond this, remember that God Himself experienced a similar loss for a similar reason. Christ died, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). I don't wrestle with His loss. I just give thanks.