Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Was God Thinking?

Day before yesterday, as I write, a dear Facebook friend and fellow melanoma warrior posted about how our tight community has lost two young fathers to melanoma within a day of each other. He asked "What was God thinking?" I responded something to the effect of, "I sure hope that's not bait 'cause this fish isn't biting."

When will I ever learn to keep thoughts like that to myself? People let it go and didn't follow up; my friend was wise and didn't taunt me by dangling more bait and luring me into deep discussion. But I can't get that question, "What was God thinking?" out of my brain.

If we're honest, we all ask that kind of question either to each other or directly to God Himself. Some of us, like me, do both. I've written before about "why?" and don't want to be redundant here. I just want to share and ramble some and maybe someone somewhere will find it useful.

I think it's good to wrestle with these questions and I think God delights in us asking "What were You thinking, God, when...?"  When I got cancer? When someone young died? When tragedy struck? Why didn't You step in and stop it? Even when we choose to bow to God's control and sovereignty we question it. Even if it's only in our hearts. God's big enough to handle us and our questions.

Are we big enough to handle God's answers? I think that's where we can run into trouble because often we really don't like what the answers appear to be and they aren't changing. God may love me, but He doesn't love me enough to change Who He Is to suit me and paint my canvas the way I dictate. Or maybe He doesn't change to suit me because He does love me more than I'll ever imagine or understand. And I have to fit into the world and His great plan. I didn't choose to be here; God chose me to be here. There are all sorts of theologies and beliefs that people hold to for our lives beyond that point. Some have us on a very strict calendar, timetable, and tight puppet strings. Some have us completely free to go and be and do and live. And then there are others all along the spectrum between these two bookends.

No matter where we find ourselves along that theological spectrum, I advise starting with Scripture. That will be the Tanakh for our Jewish friends and the Bible for our Christian friends (one with both Old and New Testaments please, not New only!). I also advise sitting down and holding that discussion with someone who can look you in the eyes and hear your heart as well as what you're saying and help you make sense out of the senseless. Someone who has studied the Word and can help you find answers in it. They may not be complete answers. They may leave you with more questions. But we need to look at what the authoritative Word of God has to say about life and death issues instead of making it up as we go along.

Frankly, that's what too many of us do and then we can go around telling people, "I think. I believe." And we have no solid Biblical basis and we can lead people astray with what sounds good but isn't true. Even my "agnostic on his best days and atheist on his worst days" College Kid backs up what he thinks with science. He doesn't hold to what suits him. We have to look beyond ourselves.

When I look to the Bible, beginning with Genesis, I find that, no matter how God created, He brought forth a world that was perfect and good and we were very good. He brought it forth out of chaos and we have returned to chaos. The world ceased being perfect long ago and people did, too. Our fragile bodies are part of that imperfect world and are susceptible to everything that imperfection has to throw at it and it does throw! Everyday, all day.

There are laws of nature. There are behaviors we people can, and do, engage in that are destructive. We may not know they are destructive, but if we engage in them, we are at risk for suffering consequences. We may suffer those consequences in our own bodies or we may inflict consequences on others. For example, drunk driving. My Daddy's Daddy was killed by a drunk driver when my Daddy was 7 years old. The consequences of that one man's actions were far-reaching and long-lasting. God stopped none of it but He redeemed and transformed all of it.

We in the world of cancer, particularly melanoma, rightfully get upset when two young fathers die within a day of each other. That's one very small corner of a very large canvas. They weren't the only two who died of melanoma in that time span. They weren't the only young parents who died.

Every day, around the world, thousands upon thousands of people of all ages and family structures die. Disease, famine, war, accidents, murder, natural disasters, the causes are massive and run a wide gamut. Every day, countless children are left without one parent or both. Every day parents are robbed of their children. Worldwide.

And we ask, "What was God thinking?"

All through Scripture, God speaks up and reminds us that He is God and we are not. He has been from the beginning and we have not. He always comes to His children's rescue, but because He sees "time" differently from us, it may not be in our particular generation. But, at just the right time, He rescues and saves and it is always in a mighty way that makes people sit up and take notice. But before the mighty rescue, there is a long season of suffering. God just simply does not have a history of dropping everything and rushing to put an end to our pain the second it starts.

Though God can, and sometimes does, suspend the laws of nature, often He chooses not to and, instead, He makes a way in the face of massive pain and destruction and death for His children to aid His children. 

The same with diseases that can take over and kill our bodies. God could choose miraculous healings for all of us and at the first inkling of disease, but rarely does. Instead, He chooses to carry us through these times and let us testify to His goodness, power, hope, faithfulness, and love through them.

Though we have our own ideas of how long we should live, and let's face it, it's never long enough, God sees our lifespans differently from us. He has been known to take a lifespan of a few hours and use it just as mightily as He uses the lifespan of someone who sees 100 years.

And we ask, "What was God thinking?" And there are some questions we'll never fully answer and the answers leave us with more questions. But they also keep us talking to God, trying to figure it out and make that sense out of the senseless and we look back and see how far we've come in spite of us and our circumstances. 

We know and understand we aren't in a perfect world and we aren't perfect and our bodies sure aren't perfect. But, man, it sure does bite when imperfection collides with our own little world.

And we ask, "What was God thinking?"

And I've learned that not only is God big enough to handle that question, but He's also big enough to answer it. I probably won't see how He answers it in the lives of the families who buried way too young warriors, but, in time, they probably will come to understand a partial answer.

All I know is that I believe what Scripture testifies to about God, what Church tradition testifies to about God, what my reason and life's experience testify to about God and that is that

God Is Love and He gives good gifts to His children. When the un-understandable happens, sure I cry and I question, but God has worked with me enough on this issue that I know His ways are not my ways and His understanding is not mine. I dare not trust my own.

But I can trust His even when I don't like it.

And I am grateful.