“Write hard and clear about what hurts.
Don’t avoid it.
It has all the energy.
Don’t worry, no one ever died of it.
You might cry or laugh, but not die.”
– Ernest Hemingway
I told a friend last fall that I feel God hasn’t required that much of me in my life so far. And at the time it was true–our kitchen fire resulted in a new kitchen rather than charred house, we had never truly worried about how to pay the bills (though we got good at frugality), and I enjoyed a full family that loved each other and me. Even my mom’s cancer, though the treatment was a bitch, seemed over and done with, some blip on the map, a destination we checked off “we’ve been there” and kept on our way.
Well, here we are. Your perspective shifts a whole lot in the week after you find out it’s back. And it’s not “back” in the “we’ve got to fight this SOB again,” but the “oh eff it was a sneak attack and we’re surrounded.” The eloquent XKCD comic illustrates what that weird word “recurred” really means. And now, I know what God will require of me: my mother.
Our old pastor dropped by dad’s office and reminded him that, really, we’re supposed to hate death and sickness. In phrasing it to myself, it’s common but not natural. This is not the way it’s supposed to be, and anybody who says otherwise apparently hasn’t walked this road yet. We don’t have to take the news with a cherubic smile and say, “This is for my good.”
I have railed at God and shaken my fist a good deal in the past three weeks (I don’t know how I knew before the actual diagnosis, I just did) and still come back to faith as the one thing that makes sense in a FUBAR world, even if it’s a hard thing. And yes, I recognize that God uses our worst moments for our redemption–to put it tritely, our “good.” Yes, that is true, and I am fighting for truth to win out every day that I process this new reality. But don’t tell me that “my good” in the primary reason for this, because now you’re smoking something.
I’m learning that my God is pained at my suffering, that my God gives comfort and answers me even when I’m most angry. I’m learning that my God will not let me go. That he is faithful in all things, even when I am faithless. This God is a personal God who loves, not one so far removed from my life that he takes away someone I love and calls it “good.” What he works is good; I can’t think of a single time he calls suffering “good” per se, despite what well-meaning people may say.
Another thing–God is not so small that the primary point of our suffering is his glory. I bristled considerably when someone young blurted out the “this is for your glory” phrase, because it makes God out to be so small and petty that he depends on our agony to draw attention to himself, to give himself a boost. That is beyond messed up and backwards. God has never, ever needed us for his glory, and he certainly has never needed our suffering to somehow “complete” his glory. I want nothing to do with a God whose sees the primary function of suffering as his own glory–that’s like the gods of old proving a point by toying with men’s lives.
My God is close when the waves break over me and I fall apart throughout this process, this discovery of a new normal. He will redeem the worst I can imagine–but he does not force me into it because he needs more glory or thinks it’s good for me. I don’t have an answer for the grand “where does evil come from” question, but I can answer this much: a broken world means brokenness will follow me, and my God has held me even as I’ve beaten my fists against the embrace. He will make sure my family does not endure the worst in vain, but in the good company of hope.
Yes, I can live with that.