Our Lord is love and grace … and justice and mercy and wrath … He is All … and thank God He is, because I need Him now and nothing less will do.
I’d texted Paula last night to see how everything was going in Atlanta (where she goes for her cancer treatments). She was going for scans and we’d been praying for no new activity in her lung or leg – the places where cancer has settled it’s nastiness into her body. We prayed … asking for healing, perhaps searching for remission, or any positive news that we could hold on to.
I think about something I’ve read over and over again this past week:
Do you cling to the crisis or do you cling to Christ?
In retrospect, I think, how silly we are. Why don’t we just hold on to Jesus? Oh He is with us, definitely. He always goes where he’s wanted. How nice that no matter how ‘mature’ we are in our Christian walk, He allows us to behave all human-like and attempt to grasp the reins of our situation rather than just slip our hand into His and walk with Him through it. He never shakes His head in disgust or tsk-tsk’s us when we manage to move around Him, like we never saw Him standing there, and look everywhere else before we come back to Him. I guess that’s grace, hmmm?
Paula’s reply text comes the following morning. “We got bad news,” her text read. “The cancer has spread to my brain.”
I sit there in shock and devastation, my phone slipping from my hand. Tears immediately well up and spill down my cheeks. “Why?” I ask God.
It’s such a human thing to ask but I still immediately ask God’s forgiveness for asking it. Do you think that’s weird? I don’t. It’s never weird to talk to God about anything that is on your heart. But I know He’s not going to tell me why. It’s a futile question that won’t be answered because His ways are not my ways. I still feel badly for asking but then I just talk to Him – a river of words gushing out of my soul: Lord, I’m gonna ask why and I’m probably gonna ask why for a long time today, so please just listen. I take a breath and chuckle to myself. Sometimes I envision Jesus sitting in the chair next to me listening to me prattle. I imagine He shakes His head silently – even though I know He would never do that.
“Why?” I ask again wiping my eyes. “Oh Lord, why Paula?
“Why not Paula?” I hear in my mind. “Why not you? Or the guy down the block? Or a lady in California? Or a kid in Germany?”
I sit quietly. Those questions don’t seem very constructive or comforting, but I see God’s point. Asking ‘why’ doesn’t help move the situation forward. Asking ‘why’ allows me to sit transfixed by grief without making any progress.
I do one thing that I can right now – get Paula and her husband on the church’s prayer chain and on every prayer warrior’s lips I can think of – and then I pray. It’s fitting that part one of the post about Ephesians 3:20 had just dropped that morning and so I pray Ephesians 3:20 over Paula. We definitely need more than I can ask for or imagine.
Then I remember reading a post from one of my favorite bible teachers, Margaret Feinberg. In her post “How to Cling to God When Everything Falls Apart” Margaret talks about replacing the ‘Why’ question with a ‘Who’ question:
Who is God in this? This is a daring question to ask. But such a brave question will not just lead to a deeper connection to God, but to answers that transform us—making us look just a little bit more like Jesus along the way. You see, God listens to our stinging words, embraces our frail hearts, and meets us where we are. Nothing is too much for the Holy Who.
As the day wears on I’ve stopped asking why and set my sights firmly on God. God knows how much my heart aches. He knows the pain and sadness and frustration that Paula must be feeling. He knows the heart of her amazing husband, Bob, who has been such a rock throughout this ordeal. He is within us, between us, going before us, and covering us. Jesus in our midst.
I wonder if He is crying.
Dear Lord, our almighty Father in Heaven, how grand are your plans and purposes. You are the Alpha and the Omega, without whom we would not be. Let your healing hand of mercy and grace fall gently on my friend and all of your children who suffer from this dreadful disease. Help us to be constantly touched by Your magnificence, recognize Your wonder, and abide in Your truth. We may ask why, Lord, even though our soul knows that the answer remains with you. Thank you for allowing us the freedom to ask. Propel us to a better future by helping us to not wallow in misery over our present. We love you, Lord. Amen.
Thank you to all who prayed with us this past week.
My heart is full of joy for you.