Over the past few months I’ve been wearing holes in the soles of my figurative shoes from the endless pacing that my mind has been engaged in trying to figure out best how to interpret, understand, and responsibly handle the circumstances that my dad has found himself in after being diagnosed with two different kinds of cancer (one being a stage four malignant brain tumor) within the course a month or so. As I’ve told my dad and others numerous times, I cannot imagine somebody having worse luck (cancer being just the latest in a slew of frustrating and undeserved challenges he’s faced) and I can’t fathom any reason that he would deserve to have to deal with such issues. I just don’t understand, as well-meaning people tell me, how my dad’s suffering can benefit anyone in God’s grand scheme, least of all, himself. Then there are other people who see my dad’s circumstances as an opportunity to discredit the notion of a loving God to the point of comparing him to a mother who shakes her child awake in the middle of the night just so that she can show her love to her child by soothing him back to sleep. Well, get ready, because, here’s my big comeback…
Ok. I really don’t have one. From a logical human perspective, his argument is just as plausible as anything else I’ve got. But, then again, why should I try to place my own limitations (or his) on God? As a parent, I recognize that my kids don’t always understand why I don’t let them get away with certain things and they certainly let me know about it when they’re not happy with my decision. I also have to admit that I can be a real sucker for the crocodile tears that both of my kids are capable of producing in an instant. But, the fact is that if I don’t act as a responsible parent by helping them to make good decisions, sometimes allowing them to experience the negative consequences that come as a result of bad decisions, and, also, helping them to understand and deal with the fact that life isn’t always fair, I’m setting them up for failure in their own lives. Simply put, there are things that they simply can’t understand at the ages of three and seven that my wife and I do understand. Our judgments overrule theirs whether they like it or not and it is for their good whether they understand that or whether they don’t.
I just finished reading the Old Testament book of Job through for the first time in my life. I read parts of it as a teenager as part of a bible study and knew the general gist of it, but, this seemed like a good time to take it in as an adult and, in a nutshell, here’s what happened: Job was a tremendously wealthy guy with a prosperous family. Based on the precept of some kind of cosmic discussion between Satan and God (not sure how literal the book is) Job ends up being tested with the tragic loss of his family, his wealth, and the onset of health issues that make him absolutely miserable. Over the course of the forty-two chapters he questions God, complains about the notion that he doesn’t deserve all of the trouble he’s experiencing and he receives at first friendly support and then not-so-friendly advice from three other men who basically suggest that: 1-He does deserve it. 2-He has no right to question God. In the end, though, God responded and dismissed Job’s acquaintances’ advice as near-sighted and inaccurate. As for Job, God never really answered His questions, but, He did make one thing clear to Job and his acquaintances: men are not capable of knowing or understanding the purposes of God. Job rightly concluded, “…surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know,” (Job 42:3). God went on to bless the rest of Job’s life far greater than it had been prior to losing so much to begin with. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
I will not claim that I understand what is going on with regards to the trouble that my dad is experiencing and why he has to experience it (though I can say, with conviction, that watching him go through this and not being able to change it is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to experience). Additionally, I know that my arguments for trusting God may not always win out in a logical debate (perhaps there are arguments that could be used to win in such a debate, but, the person debating would have to be someone much more intellectually qualified than myself like, say, C.S. Lewis, for example). But, I do know that my dad is suffering and I don’t know why this has happened to him. But, God sees and knows everything and my faith in Him is the only hope that I’ve got. If He’s allowed it to happen, it will serve the ultimate purpose of good as God is love (2 John 4:8). He will win over sin (also known as selfishness) and the damage that sin has caused over the course of human history. As for my dad and I, I will continue to pray for him daily. I will pray for his soul. I will pray for his peace of mind. And I will pray for his health, because, though his circumstances may seem intimidating to us, they are are not intimidating to God and He can use them in whatever way he sees as being necessary. Until then, I will do everything I can to stand by my dad and support him and I will maintain my faith in my Father in heaven, my Abba.
…being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12