“Just tell me this, man: Why does my mother have to get sick and die? She was a good person; she doesn’t deserve to die!”
This is often leveled as an accusation. While it pretends to attack God, it’s really an accusation that you, as a believer, are being unreasonable. You are accused of presenting a religion with promises and doctrines that don’t square with reality. This is the voice of a petulant child, angry that authority doesn’t grant their personal wishes.
But instead of all the flawed theology I’ve heard trying to answer such things, I think it’s best to attack the one false assumption here: that death is such a bad thing, as if it were some kind of punishment. A better approach is to point out that the common human value system of crime and punishment is no reflection at all of how God operates.
Answer the question with a question: Who wants to stay here in this messed-up, cursed world?
Granted, we who follow the heart-led path can grab a taste of Heaven in walking according to divine revelation in this Vale of Sorrow. We can offer a bubbly countenance to a dying and broken world, because we have embraced the Flaming Sword and don’t cling to the cursed human existence. We participate in the World to Come and commune with unfallen Creation all around us. But you can bet the person who asks the inflamed question above doesn’t have that perspective. The path out of their sorrow is not a straight line, in terms of human logic.
The path is a straight line in moral terms, though. If there is any answer at all, it starts with recognizing the reality of the Fall. Nothing else we say will do them any good until they realize this life is not what God intended for us, that humanity is hopelessly corrupted. You don’t have to level the accusation that their mother is just as morally fallen as everyone else; she may have been a morally good person. That’s not the question. The issue is the one who raised the complaint. They are assuming that leaving this world is a bad thing, when in reality, it’s staying in this world that is a bad thing. Leaving it is a good thing.
Separate out the issue of her sickness. While disease is part of the natural world around us, the untimely suffering of humans is the result of the Fall. More than just us as individuals, the whole of humanity ignores how things are supposed to work. Humanity presumes to know, and that’s a primary symptom of the Fall. Talk about how good people in a bad world will inevitably be exposed to health factors they don’t control. A miraculous healing is not magic; it’s not something we carry in our pockets to whip out when someone needs it. Miracles aren’t based on human need, but on God’s glory. It’s incomprehensible. But there’s an awful lot we can do to reduce suffering by seeking shalom that comes from Biblical Law. That Law is a feudal covenant law that requires a general atmosphere of compliance to work fully.
So she gets sick because the world is evil. Don’t get lost on what’s fair by democratic philosophical assumptions. God’s revelation says that was wrong from the start. This is a point where you can hammer home just how corrupt the world really is, rejecting God’s truth, and substituting false morals based on reason. Creation is inherently feudal; reality rests on feudal assumptions. If you can’t get that right, you cannot hope to understand, you cannot build a good religion. Reality will not fully cooperate without that covenant community foundation. Blame the nasty world around you for the failure.
But dying is a good thing in the final analysis, because when our time comes, we seize upon that as God’s reward to us for faithful service. What’s on the other side is incomprehensible, beyond the simple point that we call it “Heaven.” You don’t need to address whether mom went to Heaven, only that good people are better off there than here.