Where is God When it Hurts?

I have had active growing faith since I was six and I was studying for my first Communion sacrament.  Something clicked and I truly tried to make decisions and to live my life in a manner that would reflect my faith, yet my faith lacked a certain depth and understanding.  Like many people with faith, I believed that if I prayed hard enough or believed enough, that nothing too terrible would be asked of me.  Essentially, I believed that life would be fair and that small set backs were conquerable.  Maybe the misguided smugness is what made my testimony fall flat.  My life was not always perfect, but I seemed to land on my feet and I indeed had many blessings that many looked at enviously.  I had a long marriage, five overly successful children, and I have been a runner for many years.  I hid the challenges and once the challenge was either done with or far enough behind me, it was as if  they never happened.  The day Phil was assassinated, the rose colored glasses came off.

My faith became very real in the moment I heard the news.  I will never forget one of my last cognizant thoughts for a very long time.  As I fell to my knees keening, one thought flashed across my mind.  How can I claim to have faith  if in my darkest hour, I turn from that faith?  One thought, one choice.  It was that simple.

The author of my favorite hymn—the very hymn that Phil’s eulogy was rooted in, made the same choice.  He was a minister traveling from England to the United States.  For some reason, he was delayed for a few weeks.  He sent his wife and young daughters on ahead.  The ship sank and he received a telegram that all was lost.  As his ship passed over the scene of horrific tragedy, he penned the words that resonate still today, “When sorrows like sea billows will roll, whatever my lot, though hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.” Indeed, whatever my lot, I know this isn’t the full story.  My days here on earth are but a small spark of what is to come.

Why would a loving God allow evil to triumph?  This loving God created us and gave us the choice of faith.  It is not a forced issue and there are evil people, evil societies, and evil choices that impact Godly people.  My paradigm has shifted here.  It comes down to my second favorite area in the Bible—Romans 4:18 starts it with a simple statement—“hope against all hope”.  Essentially that is the spark plug.  There has to be something more.  Evil cannot be the final voice.  I do not believe that.  That simple spark ignites me to get out of bed on the mornings that are the bleakest and darkest.  I believe the story is still being written and that the simple truth is that we were not promised a Disneyland life just because of faith.  Faith is not a crutch or a magic panacea to ward off personal trials and tribulations.  Faith just gives the person the strength to withstand those storms and to come out stronger.

Romans 5: 1 (the second part of my second favorite area in the Bible) tells us:  “ We also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope.  And hope does not disappoint us.” Suffering is a part of humanity.  Sometimes people get more than seems fair.  I cannot glibly answer or come up with reasons as to why some suffer more than others or why children are victims or get sick.  I also cannot say that I am raising my hand, nor am I say, “Pick me!”  I believed that if I lived a certain way and believed enough, that good things would happen.  I believed in a sense of fairness, but even the Bible shows us time and time again how people of faith suffer.  Joseph, Paul, Jesus, Isaac, Job, and the list goes on.  Job got to the point where he broke.  He cried out to God, “Why me?  Why have you abandoned me?  I had faith?  Where are you?”  God loved Job in spite of the questions and in spite of Jobs anger and sense of outrage.  He met Job in his broken state.  While people are not replaceable, Job did get to the point where he could say, “ Until now, I had only heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you (Job 42: 3).”

I can’t say that I am fully there yet.  I still feel incredibly alone and I still can’t believe how my entire life changed in one vile act of evil.  I still can’t wrap my arms around Phil being assassinated by someone he liked and trusted and that this vile man got nine of our military men and women in advising roles.  I will never understand, thus I fall to my knees and I just hope against hope in life beyond what is seen and known.  I see the growth and I see how my faith has been exposed in  a level of transparency that blazes.  When there is nothing to cling to except the unseen hope of life beyond and in a God that my human mind and spirit will never fully grasp while I am alive, it comes down to a choice.  My choice is in this hope against all hopes.  It gives me the quiet understanding that my Phil was received into heaven and that angels were in that room as evil rained down.  It is my quiet confidence—then, today, and until my last breath.Image#

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