“But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age. There was one who pleased God and was loved by him. He was taken up, lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.” (Wisdom of Solomon 4: 7-15)
There are many “levels” of meaning in this intriguing passage, including messianic ones. But what I’d like to reflect on is the heartwrenching phenomenon, touched upon here, of a young person dying “early.” While I think we generally don’t accept death; we generally say “no” to death, and are never really “ready” for it, whenever or however it happens, even if it is “expected” after a long-term disease, – because we are “wired” by God for eternal life, – I think we are particularly “un”-acceptive of an “early” death, i.e., the death of a young person.
But here the Scriptures offer us some consolation, as to the hidden meaning of an “early” death; a meaning hidden from us, but evident to God, in His perfect knowledge not only of the past and present of any given human being, but also of his/her future. This “wisdom” of Solomon suggests to me that a young person might be “taken up” because he/she “was loved” by God, Who foresaw “wickedness” in this person’s future. So, he or she was “taken up, lest evil change his/her understanding or guile deceive his/her soul.”
I don’t know if this will be of any help to those of us who have been traumatized by the death of beloved, young people in our midst, perhaps even our own children. I, for one, have been traumatized by the death of several, beloved peers in my teenage-years. But as for the question of “Why?,” to which I have no answer, because I simply don’t know, – I do find some consolation in God’s perfect knowledge and “grace and mercy,” by which He allows life and death to happen as they do, and when they do. So let me recognize God as response-able (able to respond), regarding my questions of “Why?,” because He is up for that challenge. He says, “I know why,” as I see the multifarious factors of your past, present, and future, which you can’t possibly comprehend. But trust Me, He says, because “he watches over his holy ones.”