Right now I am sitting beside the hospital bed of my beloved husband, Brad. He was re-admitted a few days ago when the growing tumor in his duodenum made drinking thin liquids impossible. Today a feeding tube was inserted which has created a whole new set of problems. It feels like every effort to prepare him for next week’s major abdominal surgery only adds complications rather than simple solutions to his medical issues.
The clock’s hour hand moves like sludge, and each passing day feels like a week. I hate watching his suffering increase and his spirits lag. I try to pray, but the words get stuck in my throat. Where are you, God? Why is this happening to me? to Brad? I whine. I agree with the author of Lamentations who wrote, “He (God) has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains. And though I cry and shout, he has shut out my prayers” (Lamentations 3:6-9). Brad is unable to ingest food and I cannot swallow the unfairness and painfulness of this situation.
I recently listened to the first of a three-part sermon series by Andy Stanley entitled, “When God?” Using John the Baptist’s predictament as an example, he pointed out that sometimes Jesus does not save us from our circumstances. John had been imprisoned after speaking out about King Herod’s marriage to his sister-in-law, Herodias. Jesus loved and respected John, but did not break him out of the dungeon or even rush to his side to comfort him. It wasn’t because Jesus had suddenly taken ill or stopped performing miracles. In fact, it is recorded that while John wasted his days in prison Jesus healed a Roman officer’s slave and raised a widow’s dead son back to life.
In the darkness of Herod’s dungeon, John began to have doubts. He sent his disciples to find Jesus and asked this burning question, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Luke 7:19).
I understand why John wanted to know the answer. I suspect he wondered if Jesus cared about his unjust imprisonment. What made other people more special than him? And, why wasn’t he being rescued like they were?
Jesus told John’s disciples to share all the miracles they had witnessed him perform. And then he added this odd statement, “And tell him (John), God blesses those who do not turn away (or translated as “stumble” in the NIV) because of me” (Luke 7:23). What did Jesus mean by that weird statement?
Stanley explained that God knows he doesn’t always show up the way we need him to. He understands his lack of action can challenge our belief and trust in him. In fact, it might even cause us to question, doubt, or reject him. This certainly is true for me. As I walk through the grocery store aisles, I notice the happy faces and healthy bodies. I see tired parents pushing children in grocery carts, the brisk walks and swinging baskets of the young adults, and the slow shuffle of elderly couples as they carefully examine the produce. Why is cancer growing in Brad’s body and not in theirs?
Just one short month ago Brad and I were discussing how to spend our retirement years. Now I don’t know if those dreams will come true since our future has become uncertain. Jesus’ words, however, are a beacon of hope to me. He gets it. He knows I am struggling with my faith. My anger about why this is happening to us isn’t frightening him. He doesn’t even judge me for it. In fact, he expects it. And, someday, I am promised that if I can hold on to my faith, even if its only by a thread, that he will bless me for it.
My latest book—Pain as a Starting Point available at: http://www.amazon.com/Pain-Starting-Point-Living-Fullest-ebook/dp/B00Q3JV0EC/ref=sr11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421306379&sr=1-1&keywords=pain+as+a+starting+point