We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 1 Chronicles 29:15
Why a sovereign God spares some and allows others to face the fire is something that we will never fully understand this side of heaven. That fact was again illustrated on the morning of September 11 when the World Trade Center was destroyed. One young man forgot his ID badge and had to return home to get it. That delay caused him to arrive at the WTC late enough to be spared.
An acquaintance of my neighbor's was standing in line to board the ill-fated United Flight #175 when inexplicably he decided that he would rather fly to Orange County even if it meant having to change planes instead of taking the non-stop flight to Los Angeles. And that decision also spared his life.
Others, though, went to work and were in the very area where the planes crashed and yet lived to tell about it. Stanley Praimnath is a deacon in his Assembly of God church as well as Sunday school superintendent. On that morning, he rose early as he normally does, spent time in prayer and headed for the train that would take him to work. Yet on that morning, for reasons he couldn't explain, he prayed earnestly, "Lord, cover me and all my loved ones under your precious blood." Afterwards he explained, "And even though I said that and believed it, I said it over and over and over."
What happened to Stanley is too long a story to relate in these few moments but, he was in his office when the plane crashed with part of the wing of the plane hurled into the doorway of his department. Trapped in the debris up to his shoulders, he felt God supernaturally spared his life as he navigated 81 smoke-filled, debris-laden flights of dark stairs with suffocating air choking his breathing.
He later gave thanks saying, "Lord, had You not been in control, I would not have made it." He agrees with what David wrote in Psalm 68 when he said, "Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death" (vv.19-20).
Question: Are those who were spared more spiritual, or more in touch with the Lord than the hundreds who tasted of the grace of God as they were swept into the doors of heaven? That was the question that was put to Jesus, which Luke recorded in the thirteenth chapter of the book that bears his name. Some skeptics asked Jesus about a tower that collapsed, killing some 18 people, and Jesus silenced the argument by saying that they were no guiltier than others living in Jerusalem. But Jesus did tell them that unless they too repented, they would likewise perish (see Luke 13).
There are no pat answers to the question of why God chooses to spare some and why others are called home. Hebrews 11 is the great chapter that talks of the heroes of faith who found deliverance, but it also says, "Others were tortured and refused to be released." The passage speaks of those who were stoned, were sawed in two, were put to death by the sword and otherwise tormented. The writer closes saying, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39,40).
Safety is never the absence of danger, but the presence of the Lord, and when God's time really comes, there should be no fear. "Absent from the body," says Paul, "is present with the Lord." So until that time, make the best of every day and live every day so that if God does call you home, you will be ready. You know you are God's child and that heaven's door will open for you.
Resource reading: Job 7:11-21