“If he dies I’m going to be mad at God”….these words return repeatedly as I watch my close friend wrestle with the relentless cancer that ravages his body.
Awhile back I shared about my friend’s battle with cancer and the conviction that permeated his life in the face of it. Now, he is in a phase that can be described with a single word…..suffering. Still, the outcome of this suffering is uncertain. It may be part of the “healing reactions” the body undergoes as part of Gerson therapy. Sadly, it could also mean much worse than that. But despite the uncertain result, our friend’s moment-to-moment experience is pain and discomfort.
Seeing him in this position has stirred my thoughts. Questions about God and purpose and meaning have surfaced. How could God allow these circumstances? It feels irreverent to ask “where is the Great Physician now….on vacation?” But that’s honest. Many continue to pray and fast and hope for a miracle, yet the miracle has eluded us. There is still time, yet the miracle hasn’t materialized…..at least not the miracle we asked for.
It’s easy to resent God for not doing what I think he should do. In the face of this apparent injustice – this healthy father, friend, and husband facing a hell nobody deserves – it’s simple to point to God as the perpetrator of this suffering.
When I sit with these conclusions, comparing them with the God of the Bible whom I know and love, something is askew. I remember that when Jesus walked the dusty paths of his day, he did not heal everybody. Yet, that did not make him any less compassionate.
If I’m brutally honest about my predicted anger toward God, the truth is that it is really a well of sadness bubbling up in me. It also scares me that the world is a place with so much pain and uncertainty and that God’s protection doesn’t shield us from crisis and tragedy like I wish it would.
Where is God in this season of suffering? In this dark night, as my friend coughs and aches, I believe God is not watching from afar. Jesus is with him in that room, weeping tears of compassion over him. Jesus holds his sickened frame, as a father holds his dear child. I see Jesus kissing his cold forehead, dabbing his tears with pierced hands, and singing songs of soothing over him. Jesus washes his feet that have run many miles. Jesus is proud of the noble race my friend has run. He is present in the pain, never to leave my friend’s side.
The Great Physician is not on vacation. No, he is suffering alongside my friend and his family. God reminds them through the voices of hundreds of friends, “I have not left you, I am here with you”.
We will continue to pray for the physical healing….THAT is the miracle we all wish for. And if God chooses to allow the miracles of love, grace, monetary provision, strength for another hour, and comfort in moments of emotional and physical pain, yet for some unknown reason withholds the miracle or physical healing, will we still live in gratitude? Or will our sadness erupt into anger?
Personally, I’m still undecided. If God ushers my friend home shortly, will I focus on what was lost more than what I gained in the process? By God’s grace, I pray that my tears will never be lacking in gratitude. I’m thankful today that God is not one who kills, but The One who comforts. He carries us in our pain, suffering faithfully by our side. From here to heaven, His love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).