Question of the week: A famous Christian singer I admire, very passionate about his faith, died from cancer while still young. Doesn’t the Bible state that God will not make you suffer and will give you a long life if you are his faithful son or daughter? Then why did this singer die of cancer? This death is messing up my belief in God.
My answer: If you live your life as a faithful son or daughter of God, it will increase your odds of living a long life. However, as both my father and father-in-law reminded me in their latter years, old age is not for cowards. The older we become the more we will suffer from the consequences of the laws of physics.
I have lived long enough to have the experience you describe occur many times. It is always a tragic loss to see a passionate Christian, strong in their faith and radiating Christlike character, die at a young age. At such times we should and must ask questions like the ones you posed.
As I wrote in Why the Universe Is the Way It Is,1 God subjects all of us to laws of thermodynamics, gravity, and electromagnetism as tools to discourage us from committing sin and evil acts and to encourage us to come to him for redemption. Because of these laws of physics, we all experience decay, suffering, declining health, and eventual physical death. In John 16:33 Jesus states that in this world we will have tribulation, but we are to be of good cheer since he has overcome the world.
On rare occasions God does miraculously intervene to deliver someone temporarily from the consequences of the laws of physics, but only when that deliverance brings about a stronger response to his offer of redemption than allowing the laws of physics to run their course. Isaiah 57:1–2 may apply to the singer you admire: God knowing the impending trials, suffering, and trauma for him and knowing that he had achieved all the purposes on Earth for which God had assigned to him decided to allow him to graduate early. Another possibility is that God used the death of this singer in a similar way he used the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7): to help bring faith in Christ the Redeemer to others—in Stephen’s case to Saul of Tarsus. There are many other possible biblical reasons. We have an online list of Scripture passages, God’s Mercy in Death, that might encourage you.
Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 165–181.