Last week I attended the memorial service of a modern-day spiritual giant – David Watters. Our paths first crossed in the early 80s when he and his wife Nancy, Bible translators in Nepal, were on home assignment. Because of our common interest in Nepal, we’ve followed their ministry for nearly 30 years.
David – a world-renowned expert in linguistics – died suddenly on May 18 from a pulmonary embolism. He was only 65, taken when he was only a few chapters shy of completing a book about his experiences. When I received news of his death mere hours after it happened, my first thought was, “Why, God? He was in his prime. He still had so much to offer Your kingdom.” In my heart, I know God makes no mistakes, but still…why?
I wonder if people thought the same thing when Stephen died. Acts 6 says he was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, full of God’s grace and power (vv.5,8). He was performing amazing miracles and signs among the people for God’s glory. He was a powerful public speaker and debater for the Gospel’s sake. But everything came to a sudden and tragic end when the Jewish leaders stoned him for this faith (Acts 7).
When news of Stephen’s death reached the region’s believers, they, too, may have asked, “Why?” It didn’t make sense for this godly man, making such an impact for God’s kingdom, to be taken. Regardless, they were asked to trust God’s sovereignty and to persevere in their faith.
Those who mourn David’s passing are asked to trust God’s sovereignty and persevere in their faith, too. He, like Stephen, lived a life worthy to celebrate. He was faithful to God and to his family, and faithful to his calling no matter the cost. His example leaves a role model worthy to follow.
I don’t have the answer for why David was taken now. But of one thing I’m sure: he, like Stephen, is in God’s presence today. He’s experiencing firsthand what Stephen saw before he died – “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Acts 7:55).
The question “Why?” disappears in light of God’s matchless glory and the risen Christ. I wonder if, when we reach heaven, we’ll fall on our knees in awe and ask God, “Why did You make me wait so long to come home?”