Sunday, we went swimming at a friend’s house. God used this time to sum up something he has been teaching me lately. It was a sweet time. My friend is battling cancer and she has finished her last chemo and is beginning to feel human again. It was great to see life beaming out of her beautiful blue eyes.
I’ve been wrestling with something I couldn’t reconcile. The question: Does God cause bad thing for people? Why do bad things happen at all? I’ve given the right answer when asked “God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but he works all things together for those who love him and are called according to His purpose.” Or “Sin is what brings evil into the world” (which is true, but not complete). I mean that’s scripture. However, I’ve been reading the Old Testament & the gospels & that’s not what it says. God brought tribulation and troubles sometimes. Couple that with watching two of my friends battle cancer this year, walking through depression, paranoia and other mental illnesses with people I care about & I was in a crisis of Faith (Or at least a crisis of theology), weary and asking WHY!
I’ve told people, “God didn’t do this.” about my own cancer, I have assured people God didn’t give me cancer. I mean what loving father would do that to a child he loves? Yet, most times I would assure that God wouldn’t bring bad to us, in my mind buried somewhere was the thought “or did he?” My 10 year old could shoot holes in my response (and did several years ago). “Mom, if God created everything & there is evil in the world, then didn’t God create evil?”… crickets… “No son, it’s free choice, we have to have free choice.” … “What?? Why?…”
And I’ve come to the conclusion (at least for now) that God does put us in hard places. I mean he sent a tormenting spirit to Saul, and mental illness to Nebuchadnezzar. What’s up with that!!
Because the God I know (not know of, but KNOW) is slow to anger, quick to forgive, abounding in love and, as Christ said, only God the Father is good. I cannot reconcile the idea that the same one who has wrapped me in his presence and provided rest and joy in my worst pain, who told me, over and over “I love you, you are my favorite” when all I could do was lay in bed and walk to the toilet to puke, the one who stood beside me when I had nothing to give was the same one who caused the struggle. (As I’m writing this, I’m thinking You couldn’t know him that way without the struggle, could you girl genius?!?)
That has been my struggle, to the point that I was wondering what I was going to do. It was like I was watching my faith slip through my fingers. I wanted to be so strong, but the tighter I held, the more it slipped away. It was like scooping up a handful of water and then trying to hold it tightly in my fist.
I’ve learned that when something stirs around in my spirit that I can not grasp, I generally have a choice to make: I can continue to wonder & to rely on reason to find my answer, or I can confess that I don’t understand and ask Holy Spirit for wisdom.
He’s never let me down thus far when I humble myself and pray that prayer.
I can’t recall all the ways he has been speaking to me lately, but it seems every sermon, each novel, each scripture, the
sign in a local school building, most conversations involve someone speaking about suffering and the gain of it.
Then, we went swimming…twice.
The first time was a couple of weeks ago. My daughter Emma attracts young children like blooming flowers attract bees. So, we took a couple of kids to the pool with us. After we had been there awhile, I noticed the 6 year old was wearing a puddle jumper (the coolest inventions to teacher kid to swim EVER). I realized she didn’t know how to swim, which is crazy for a 6 year old. So I asked, “Do you want to swim?” “No, I might drown.” “You won’t drown. I’m right here. You just have to swim between me and Emma.” “No. I don’t want to.” “Well, you’re doing it anyway. I’m taking off the puddle jumper.” “Noooooo!! I’m going to drown, I will die!” “I’m holding you in my arms. You aren’t go drown.” “No, I’m going to drown!! I don’t even put my face in the water in the bathtub! I’m going to drown!” “You’re not. I’m holding you. Put your feel down. You can touch.” “I can’t touch I’m going to drown!” At this point, I’m over the drama “Quit screaming. This is ridiculous. Put your feet down now! I’m not letting go.” Fear of me finally takes over the fear of drowning, feet go down. “I can touch!” (No kidding, twerp. Her darling little head is 5″ above the water & at this point I have to resist the urge to push her under for acting like such a goofball.). I can’t say she was swimming by the end of the day, but she was able to move around the shallow end unassisted.
Fast forward to last weekend. We are at another pool, this time a 4 year old little girl is there, swimming all over the place in her puddle jumper. She is putting her face in the water, kicking & using her arms. This girl is ready to swim. Her mom is there with us. Me: “Do you want to swim without the puddle jumper?” “Not yet.” “You’re ready, you’re already doing everything you need to swim by yourself.” “Ok” We unhooked the puddle jumper. Emma and her mom let her swim back and forth between them. She was so excited. The only thing was, this sweet mommy wouldn’t let go. She would push her daughter towards Emma, but she would never release her. Granted, on the return swim from Emma to mom, she looked like she was drowning, but she would lift her head when she needed air. It wasn’t a pretty swim, but it worked. We finally got mom to let go & let her struggle. Her older brother couldn’t take it though. He kept getting in between the two & putting his hand under her to help. The galant protector couldn’t handle watching her struggle. It took some serious promises to keep her safe to get him to back off. It wasn’t very long until she was jumping off the side of the pool & swimming back to the steps, unassisted. She too put her feet down and found, if she stood on her tippy tip-toes her little nose and mouth would just barely reach the air above the water. She delighted in her freedom & new skills.
These swimming lessons spoke deeply too my heart. The best thing for each of these girls is to be able to swim, for their safety & for having fun in the future. Neither of them could learn to swim without struggling through the pain of letting go of their support system, be it a flotation device (or vice), a deep fear of drowning, a mom, or a protective older brother. They had to be refined in the letting go. Isn’t that what hard times are like for us? They seem terrible, we are convinced we CANNOT do what is being demanded of us, yet as our safety devices are stripped away from us, we find our true selves. We find God has been equipping all along, and we see his hand of provision.
I’m learning, slowly, to praise him in the struggle. Because joy is based more in perspective than circumstance.
I feel like I do need to confess this. This week, I have prayed for Christ to return because that was the only solution I could find to a problem that day. I want things to be easy… but if they were, I wouldn’t get to see the cool things he does each day & I wouldn’t know how loved I am.
God, thanks for being way more faithful to me than I am to you. I confess my attitude stinks sometimes & I let things bother me that are just 1st world problems, like I really don’t want to go to the grocery… instead of Papa, thank you that I live near a grocery, and that we have money to buy food, and that we have teeth to eat the food. Lord, I’m so spoiled. Thank you for your many blessings & that you are willing to let me face hard times to know you more and to become more like you. Give me your perspective. I love you, Papa.