By now, you’re likely bored of the impression that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is making on me and my thinking. I loved this quote from a letter to his students encouraging them in the face of the death of several of their former-classmates.
In the face of death we cannot simply speak in some fatalistic way, “God wills it”; but we must juxtapose it with the other reality, “God does not will it.” Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here the sharp antithesis between “God wills it” and “God does not will it” comes to a head and also finds its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on death itself must therefore serve God. From now on, the “God wills it” encompasses even the “God does not will it.” God wills the conquering of death through the death of Jesus Christ. Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God’s power, and it must now serve God’s own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death. (emphasis mine)
This world is not as it should be, but Christ has overcome the world and now uses every struggle and difficulty – even death – to his glory for his purpose. Only in that light can we cope with the loss and pain of death.