I’ve prayed a thousand prayers of unintended self in my life. My desire to be free from pain and hurt-to be free from oppression, from judgement, from suffering- has often trumped my desire to be in the will of God. Surely, if the Lord really loved me as He says He does, then He wouldn’t want me to suffer, right? I’m a parent now. I can say with confidence that I don’t long to see my children suffer. Why then, if God is supposed to be Our Good Father, is He allowing me to experience so much loss? Why isn’t He taking away my pain?
Where is God when you have to tell your four children that their daddy’s tumor is aggressive now and treatments are going to be harder? Where is He when you look into their tear-streaked faces and see fathomless grief and fear? Where is He when you are choking out unspeakable words of your reality to the people you walk closely with in life? Where is He?
He is near. The Lord is near. His word says He is near to the brokenhearted, and that is so very true. It is also entirely beside the point.
God has been breaking me in this area, calling my attention to how often my prayers are centered around my wants, my perspectives…and how much time I spend asking Him to do things that give me relief instead of asking Him to use my pain and my brokenness for His glory. We have a tendency to limit God by our own viewpoint. In my case, I am an American. Because of that, I have been raised in a consumerist society. That exposure has often led myself, and I suspect others, into a thought process that says, “God is here to be near me and serve me. He is near to give me something”. That outlook leads to such confusion about the nature of God, though, provoking me to question God’s sovereignty over my life and His ability to write my story. “But, Ashley, you don’t know my life. You don’t know what the Lord is asking of me. You don’t know the depths of my sorrow and loss”, you may be saying to yourself right now. And you are quite right. I know the depths of no story but my own. What I do know, though, is that my limited, first person narrative is only a part of the story the Lord is writing, as is yours.
God is not less good when He does not give me what I ask for, even when I ask in earnest. He is not incapable of earthly healing, even when He does not write it into the stories of the ones I love. The One who chose to break the creative orderliness of the normal human brain He fashioned and weave Jesse’s so beautifully broken instead is not obligated to give me what I want just because my sight is limited to the paths my humanity deems good.
The real truth of my life is that no amount of longing for freedom from my suffering changes the pressing reality that my husband is a very sick man. No amount of crying out to the Lord for healing makes the reality of the suffering of my children’s youth go away. Life for them and life for me is not “good” by humanity’s terms. Jesse has brain cancer. Brain cancer. It isn’t a disease that is easily, or often, defeated. Jesse will likely die with brain cancer, though not necessarily because of it. Every day here is lived in the tension of growing as close as we can to him, and knowing that, unless the Lord intervenes, we will have to let him go sooner than we want. These things are not changeable by us. BUT, what can change is what we choose to do with our pain. Mine, my kids’, and yours. Maybe God hasn’t taken away your pain because of what He knows He can do in and through you as you walk through it. Maybe, just maybe, God hasn’t taken away your pain because it is not the punishment you have received it as, but a gift instead. Maybe your pain will lead to someone else’s healing. Maybe your suffering is purposed to lead to the salvation of someone else. Your temporary pain for their eternal peace.
You may be wondering at this point why I still believe in God when healing hasn’t come. If the word of God is true and real, and His power is infinite and unlimited, and we believe whole-heartedly that He is fully able to miraculously heal Jesse from this; and we have faithfully prayed and you have faithfully prayed for that healing to come, and yet it still has not arrived…then where is God in this? Is He not real? Is He not capable? Is He not willing? If He isn’t willing, then does He delight in watching us writhe around in pain? I thought He was supposed to be a good Father…did I do something to incur His wrath? Why is this happening to me? Why my person? Why my children? Why? Maybe you are in the middle of something so lingeringly terrible, and you are looking up to the Lord and pleadingly shouting, “My faith is bigger than a mustard seed, Lord! Why is this mountain not moving? Where is the healing?!”
The answer is so simple that we miss it sometimes. I know I did. Dearest, your view of healing is blurry. Healing has already come. The mountains have already been moved. Earthly healing is always temporary, never permanent. We long for the Lord to show Himself to us in that way, sure. What human wouldn’t? As I’ve written before, even Jesus asked to be spared the suffering. But really, even if we lose Jesse tomorrow-even if you lose your husband, your wife, your child, your mother, father, sister, brother, friend-Even if…even when…you lose them or they lose you, you have no less days together when you know Jesus as King. No less days. Those three words rush over me like a waterfall of mercy and hope. God may not take away your pain here. He may ask you to bear the weight of suffering through this temporary life with a gratitude you often do not feel. Just remember, suffering and loss do not carry over into forever life with Christ. Our time together here with people who know and love the Lord is not truly shortened by death. Peaceful, rejoicing eternity together does not diminish in time. No less days, guys. No less days.
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
‘And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.'” Psalm 39:4-7
***Jesse’s port surgery is this Monday, March 6. It should begin at noon and be a fairly quick procedure. He is currently fighting a cold, as well. Prayers for relief from his cold and successful, uneventful surgery are very much appreciated!
We do not have a date for Jesse’s third brain surgery yet, but expect to have more details soon. We know the Lord has all of us firmly in His safe, protective grasp and are at peace with His direction in all things. He is good!***