The Lord, in His sovereign plan, came and carried Lanie into His presence early on Sunday morning. The Lord was gracious in allowing her homecoming to be peaceful. Just a few hours before, we had prayed that she wouldn’t suffer.
The grief of watching a young child battle cancer is deep. Last week in my Spot of Grace I spoke about the tension between faith and grief. As I have walked this journey with many precious people over the years, there is always a question of, “Why, Lord?” Why do children suffer? Why do the evil seem to prosper and the innocent seem to struggle? Why does grief appear to be so random? Why does God seem unwilling or unable to do anything? Those are the questions of many who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
In his helpful book on pain and suffering, Pastor Tim Keller says this: "God is both a sovereign and a suffering God … (With God) much suffering is mysterious and unjust.” There is a mystery to suffering because as mere finite people we can’t possibly know all that God has planned. We can’t see His purposes and we can’t see all His reasons. This mystery means that suffering often leaves us asking, “Why, God?”
Think about this: Suffering isn't based on whether we are good or evil. Good people suffer. Suffering isn't based on justice. Evil men prosper and walk away without immediate consequences for their sin. Suffering isn't always connected to sin. Think about Job. Scripture says that Job was blameless (Job 1:1). Yet, as you know, Job suffered deeply.
So here’s my point to all this: I find the mystery of suffering hard to understand. I find it especially hard this week. As a pastor, I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death with many elderly individuals. I have seen those who have battled disease for extended periods. There seems to be a more natural pattern to the elderly dying. But watching a child suffer is altogether different. So maybe like me, when you encounter grief you want God to let you know what He's doing. Our hearts tell us that we don’t like His choices. But if we knew just a few of His reasons, maybe our grief would be eased. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is working all things for our good. Even so, I felt that challenge once again between human grief and faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
To be very honest with you, I have felt conviction in my heart this week in light of what has happened to this young lady in our church and her precious family. I feel convicted that I need to grow in my trust of God. I have asked myself if I only trust Him when He does what I think He should do. Trust calls us to give Him our preset ideas and conclusions about what God can and should do.
I am learning that I need to go to God with my wrestling thoughts. I encourage you to do the same thing. When you have reached the end of your abilities and don't know what else to do, or when you don't know why grief has come to you, go to Him. He may not give you all the answers right now, but He's the only One who knows suffering and is able to carry you. I believe God can handle the fact that I don’t like suffering and that He will continue to call me to trust Him.
In grief, keep hold of the hope of God. Think about what God promises for eternity – that eternity that Lanie is experiencing right now – a place with no more pain or cancer. In your grief, keep holding to your trust in God. While we don't understand all His plans and purposes, we do know that God is good and that God loves us. I encourage you, in the mystery of suffering, to trust Him. Your circumstances may have changed but remember this: He hasn't changed.
Let me close with this wonderful passage:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9