I know a guy, a pretty young guy, who is battling cancer. And the cancer is winning. I know a lot of people who have battled cancer, but something is different about this one particular guy I know, even though I can’t explain what it is. I don’t even really know him well, but I haven’t been able to get him off of my mind the past few weeks. It’s not fair that cancer wins, especially over someone so young. In his fight, every step forward has come with three steps backward, and it sucks. There’s no other way to put it.
My grandma has also been on my mind. She’s about 5 years or so into the debilitating mess of Alzheimers. We’ve watched a woman who was always bright, sharp, funny and loving be stripped of her memory and personality. Who she is now isn’t her. We see the effects of the disease, but it’s not her. Things like Alzheimers shouldn’t exist. I don’t understand why we haven’t figured it out yet. Why haven’t we found a cure? Why hasn’t God given someone the answer?
I know people who have been out of work for a long time. Waiting for answers and open doors. Good people who deserve answers and open doors. It’s so frustrating to see these people I care struggle for so long. It makes me really angry that God hasn’t showed up for them in some way. Why doesn’t He do something for them?
I mean, I know the theological answer. We pastors are expected to have it locked and loaded and ready to give it out at a moment’s notice. (Sinful world, broken mess, life’s not fair, mysterious ways, etc.)
But it still sucks.
Lately I’ve wondered how Mary and Martha felt as they watched their brother Lazarus dying, knowing Jesus was just a few miles away. Knowing He could show up and fix it all. Knowing that a town or two was all that stood between life and death for their beloved brother. And then Jesus showed up, 4 days late.
I’ve wondered how I would have responded. All I can go on is what I know, and that is the fact that praying for answers and getting nothing is frustrating.
That’s what I don’t like about God. I don’t like the mystery. I don’t like the confusion. I can’t stand the waiting. The worst part is the silence. You can probably relate.
There are two things I’ve reminded myself of frequently the past few weeks.
First, trust in God includes trust in His timing. That sounds like something that would make a nice magnet for your refrigerator or something. Cute little slogan…so frustrating, but true. I’m not saying I like it, and I’m not saying you have to like it either, but like it or not, it’s true.
The other thing is that Jesus didn’t rescue Lazarus from the grave; He rescued Lazarus in the grave. Not away from death, but out of death. He didn’t rescue Daniel from the lions’ den; He rescued him in the lions’ den. Jesus didn’t rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace; He rescued them in the fiery furnace.
Jesus often doesn’t deliver us from our circumstances; sometimes He delivers us through them.
And that’s what I can’t stand about God. That’s now how I want it to work. That doesn’t make things any better for the guy I know who has cancer, or for my grandma, or for any of the people I know who need a little hope in a number of circumstances. It’s not that I don’t like God…not at all. It’s that this part of how He works makes me uncomfortable and angry.
The thing is, I don’t think God minds. He knows we can’t stand that sort of thing. It’s counter-intuitive to our human nature. That’s why Jesus talked about faith so much. That’s why He talked about trust so much. And that’s why He went out of His way to make sure we understood that He loves us unconditionally, whether we like the way things work or not. Whether we agree or disagree about the right way to do things.
At the end of the day, it’s a good thing I’m not in charge of the world anyway. And, no offense, but I’m just as happy that you’re not. We would just screw it all up. We’d all wind up being self-serving and everyone else would suffer for it. My right way of doing things is someone else’s wrong way.
This trust issue is something we each have to wrestle with. Trusting God isn’t a switch we flip on. Honestly, God has never given me a reason not to trust Him. Even in the situations that are the most painful, or confusing, or unfair, there’s a purpose I don’t see. Maybe I’ll see it later, or maybe I never will.
Some days I want to yell at God (of course I don’t have any right to do that, but just being honest, some days I want to yell anyway). Some days I want to throw my hands up and stop caring. Some days I’m frustrated because, like Mary and Martha, I know Jesus could show up and fix things and I don’t understand what’s stopping Him.
But the sun came up today, and it will come up tomorrow. So today I choose to trust. I don’t have to, but often that’s all we’ve got.
It feels like I just wrote a long, hopeless post. I’m fighting a temptation to throw some Bible-fortune-cookie-wisdom in here to properly bookend things. But I’m not going to do that, which I guess is sort of the point. There’s hope in the middle of things that seem hopeless because we have a Savior who died to give us hope to hold onto in the worst moments.