…..I wish I could honestly say something like ‘but God is good,’ but this is a hard place to be. Not that I’m doubting, I have seen too much of grace and power to doubt. But I’m questioning, because this isn’t good. It is hard. And it probably won’t end or get easier until mom is gone. And she’ll leave two high school girls behind, one of whom has questioned ‘mom, don’t leave me like my Chinese mother did’ (she was adopted at 4). God gave my parents, during a trip to china last fall, a vision of service to orphans there- what of that?” That looks pathetic to read. It’s where I am- and I covet prayer (the ability to pray) and peace.
(My response: I am completing this after spending 3 days with Nancy – with whom we have been close friends since 1968. Nancy went through a tough divorce situation…and then soon had to watch her sister die of breast cancer. Sometime after her sister died, Nancy married her sister’s husband – and 10 years later she found out that she had breast cancer…”cured”…and then five years later learned she had pancreatic cancer. After radical surgery and chemo she has lived 2 years – but the battle is very close to over. The day after we returned home I spent two hours with Jan…another close friend of ours. She could die very, very soon. Both of these women – and Shelley Schenkel, whom I will write about in the following, have demonstrated an internal peace…smiles of contentment, of joy.
Bart and Nancy have both read what I have written and both feel it is true. Bart’s actual response: “With certainty! You have clarified the “Big” picture well and the story of my journey fits that picture. Hurting people need to know how (like others before them) to work through tough parts of God’s perfect provision in their life. It’s a journey that always comes before the answers. Bart”}
Through out your life you will have many unanswered questions. I certainly do. But this is where faith comes in…and, to some degree tested. I have learned so much from Bart Schenkel and his kids. For seven years they cared for Shelley -mom/wife – hoping against reasonable hope that Shelly would be healed. And she died….
Bart said to me over the years…”I must have faith, for if my faith fails me now, what good is my faith? He has also said several times….”There is no point in asking why”. Does this mean that Bart did not suffer? When things got too much for Bart, he would get on his bike and peddle and go and go…with the tears flowing down his cheeks –Then Bart would regroup…and go back to his role of husband, caregiver, and father – seldom able to leave their home.
Sally Jo and I new Shelly for several years before the tumor began to grow – continuing to visit with them during the years before she died. Though her body slowly broke down, her spirit, her joy did not! Shelley was given peace that passed all understanding…she radiated joy, even when she could barely be understood – or walk. Bart and the children also reflected this peace that passed all human understanding.
Six weeks after the memorial service Bart was in our home and said…”I must trust God…one thing that cannot be shaken is my faith in God” This sounds like Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” Job 13:15
How does this happen to the believer? Satan is a very powerful force in this world. God does not cause pain, but Satan is continually pulling on God’s people. And we are caught in a tug of war. Satan desires that we turn from God…and turn to him! The Bible, God’s word, begins telling of Satan and his power…and our human weakness.
Why God took his protective hand off Job (except to protect Job’s life) it is difficult to understand. In time God did restore to Job what he had lost…and more (that is if it is possible to replace one person with another). Today we look back at Job’s “story” and have many more insights than Job had as he went through his earthly “hell”. And today we are, at least I am, encouraged by Job’s story. God did not forsake Job.
In many ways Job was like Jesus, for Jesus had everything stripped away from him – except God’s ability to raise Him from the dead. For the disciples, it was incredibly difficult time – watching while Jesus suffered and died. It just did not make sense…until 40 days later.
When pastor of the little country church in Bakerville, CT. Billy Warner died…very suddenly of a brain aneurism/ hemorrhage – pain and death within a couple hours. I remember the evening only too well. Linda and Billy had 2 children with # 3 on the way.
I remember holding Linda the night before the funeral. We stood together on the small porch with northern lights above in the sky. I could feel the unborn child between us…Linda was devastated…we all were! I remember her saying…”once you have had candy, it is so hard to live without it “. Billy was an outstanding young man – I could go on and on about my experiences with him.
Everyone, not only in the church, but in the little farming community knew Billy (area had only a blinking yellow light, a small gas station and the church). We all knew his parents, his family. Billy’s dad was a farm worker, living in a very small house on Hal Glowsky’s farm. They turned to me to pick out the casket. There was almost no insurance money…it was tough on all of us in the church – and in the community.
Two days later we had the funeral. The 200 seat church was jammed with people standing in every spare inch. I remember saying – “Billy died in the Lord – he is now in heaven because Jesus Christ was his Savior….etc. and then I went on….None of us can ever say we have not been warned! Death can come to us at any time.” Billy was 28 years old…I was 28 years old.
The impact upon our little church was incredible…a turning point in the lives of many people….a lasting impact. Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord, was invited into many hearts – seen in many lives.
Some time later I had the privilege of being the minister for the wedding of Linda and John Sear. John had been Linda’s boyfriend in high school – gone into the military…had never married. John was another incredibly wonderful husband for Linda. I have the very large saw blade from Billy’s firewood saw (turned by belt from power takeoff of tractor) hanging on our barn…a thank you gift from Linda and John.
Back to Shelley Schenkel. Shelley died just over three months ago. It will be interesting to see the impact of Shelley’s physical death upon the congregation of which she had been such an active part, to whom she had been an incredible servant. At the memorial service several told how Shelley had shared the message of Jesus with them. She had walked with many others through very tough times. Shelley has gone to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The final chapter has not yet been written.
Bart said to one of his daughters…”Oh that the Lord would have taken me!” And his daughter responded, “Dad, no offence, but if you had died it would not have had near the impact that mom’s death did”.
Where I really struggle personally – with how the love of God plays out is when I look at the suffering of Christians in other countries – starvation, rape, murder, etc. These are the best answers I have found for myself to this point in my life.
Regardless of the hell people live through on this earth – God’s people know God’s presence.
- It seems that the closer the people are to God…the more they experience His presence.
- The greater the trauma, the greater the tragedy, the greater the experience of God’s presence.
- The length of our lives here on earth is proportionally tiny in comparison to the length of our presence in eternity.
- When we read that all things work together for good, for those that love God, for those that are called according to his purpose ….the Lord must have in mind life on earth AND in eternity. How else can I make any sense out of :
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Ephesians 6:20 “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Our God sees the total picture…He is the Alpha and Omega….He knows the beginning and the end! We must never forget this. God sees the total picture. God is all loving – of others as well as us. I do not think our physical comfort is of great concern to God.
When (not if) we are caught in an incredible struggle, let us hang on, in faith believing, that God knows what He is doing …and we do not need to know, we do not need to understand. God is God…His ways are not our ways. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts”. Isaiah 55:9
Someday we will see our Lord face to face. God knows this and He knows He has nothing to be ashamed of. Oh to hear Him say at that moment…”well done good and faithful servant!” And He may then explain to us our unanswered questions…or He may not. I have not yet had that experience.
I love you …., you know this…in fact I have tears flowing down my cheeks as I write this. Life on earth can be incredibly tough! – for some, their entire life seems to be tough
God is loving and faithful…yes…even now – with your bewilderment and intense personal frustration and pain. I know this …even as I ache over situations in my life.
If we do not hang onto the truth that is taught in the Bible over and over again, what good is our faith? We would have a God led false hope…and we do not!!!
HEB 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
And this final thought. If we become bitter against God…how can we know the joy of living In Partnership With God? How can we any longer be of use to our Heavenly Father? How can we have the comfort that He says the Holy Spirit is here to bring us? “when the comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father” John 15:26 KJV
And, let’s face it; people on earth do not want to be around a bitter person. We must work through our pain, even if the only resolution becomes…”I just do not understand” and then we get on with our lives. We can remember loss… but we cannot hang on to it, acting as if it did not happen. This process will take time, but we dare not drag it out!
And yes, the loss, the struggle will come back to us. Recently I had a dream about what happened to me, to our family, 26 years ago. I had thought the inner pain, the reality of the unfairness was gone…I was wrong. I was totally surprised! I thought I had forgiven – and I think I have…but this does not remove all of the pain. Life is sometimes incredibly unfair…ugly if you will – as the direct result of sin. We must acknowledge this reality and not abandon the great reality of God’s love. We must move our focus from the one to the other.