Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Big Question

When Matt’s not traveling, I get to go to church on Sunday evenings. I really love our church! And frankly, I need the extra spiritual input. As much as I love the idea of going to church as a family (which we do on Sunday mornings), trying to hold onto a wiggly toddler and convince her antsy brother to Sit Still and Be Quiet takes its toll on my ability to focus during that part of the service before the children go to their classes. Thank God for worship music! The freedom of movement and noise gives me a chance to connect with Him through the songs. So yes, on the Sunday nights that Matt’s home, I look forward to going to church. Alone.

Evening services are always well attended, but last week it was packed. We were all there to witness and celebrate a young woman’s baptism -- a graceful, beautiful 21 year-old who, although raised in a Christian home, spent her teenage years saying, “I don’t have time for God.” A graceful, beautiful 21 year-old who now says she only has time for God.

A graceful, beautiful 21 year-old who is battling cancer.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Lymphoma less than two years ago, at the age of 19. Four rounds of chemotherapy, 175 days in hospital and three relapses later, the cancer is not only back, it has now spread to other areas of her body. She’s chosen not to go through additional treatments. The prognosis is, um, not good.

For the last two years, she’s been consumed with the Big Question: WHY? Why me? Why would a loving God allow a good person to suffer in such a dreadful way? And such a young person, too -- nineteen! (This is one of those situations that automatically gets added to my already long list of Things I Would Do Differently If I Was In Charge of the Universe.)

Last Sunday, though, she stood there: petite and radiant and calm. Sincerely giving God glory for who He is. Believing Him for healing, even now. Declaring her devotion to Him in response to His sacrificial love for her. Sharing verse after verse of Scripture that has spoken powerfully to her of God’s greatness, His goodness, His trustworthiness, even now in the middle of this awful time. Especially now.

Listening to her testimony got me thinking: We tend to ask WHY these things happen, but maybe a more realistic question is, HOW will we react WHEN they do?

In the West, I think we’ve been lulled by our relatively cushy lifestyles into believing that suffering is something best avoided. Certainly, it hurts -- and no one likes pain! But we seem to regard suffering as strange and unnatural. We think we're somehow entitled to a pain-free, trouble-free life. We assume that, if something deeply uncomfortable comes our way, God must be picking on us. We lash out at Him or at the people who are closest to us, and we feel sorry for ourselves. We try to find a way out of our misery.

But what happens when there is no way out? At least, not at a price we’re willing to pay. What then? According to the young woman who was baptized last week, we can choose to either dwell on WHAT God does for us or on WHO He is.

Circumstances constantly change. Feelings come and go. Life often turns out differently than we expected it would. That’s why a lot of people end up discouraged and disillusioned. And that’s why my very most favorite thing about God is that He is always the same. Guaranteed. So even when I don’t understand why certain things happen in this world, I can trust Him because He has not, He cannot, He will never change. Regardless of what I may be going through, He is still trustworthy. Still faithful. Still loving and kind and good. (And His Word is still true, too.)

If you haven’t yet read The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun, it's amazing. After suffering in a Chinese prison for his Christian faith, he described his persecution this way:
I had experienced so much in those four years, but God had been faithful. I’d suffered some horrible tortures, but God had been faithful. I’d been dragged in front of judges and courts, but God had been faithful. I’d been hungry, thirsty and had fainted from exhaustion, but God had been faithful.

Through it all, God was always faithful and loving to me. He had never left me nor forsaken me. His grace was always sufficient, and He provided for my every need.

I didn’t suffer for Jesus in prison. No! I was with Jesus, and I experienced His very real presence, joy and peace every day. It’s not those in prison for the sake of the gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.

Not that I’m eager to suffer in any way, but it’s a comfort to know that WHEN I do, God will be right there with me. Bringing beauty out of ashes. Redeeming. Restoring. Renewing. Refining my character along the way.

By focusing on, trusting and resting in Him, we find -- like the young woman who was baptized last week -- that our view of things goes beyond our circumstances and even our questions. And we find comfort, strength and joy in the Answer of WHO He is.

* * * * * * *
Faithful One, so unchanging
Ageless One, You’re my rock of peace
Lord of all, I depend on You
I call out to You, again and again
I call out to You, again and again

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is the anchor
My hope is in You alone
(Words and Music by Brian Doerksen)

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13: 5b, 8 NIV)

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 The Message)

My ears had heard of You,
but now my eyes have seen You.
(Job 42:5 NIV)

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing this, Laura!