This past Sunday morning was tough. Tabitha absolutely loathes taking her chemo cocktail of medication twice a day. It had been getting slightly better recently but she was particularly frustrated on Sunday.
Some of it may have been losing her normal physical rhythms and missing her church kids’ bible study before worship. Plus, her steroids had been eliciting a furious rage at random moments, leading her to mostly take it out on me during her meds times. She gave me one kick that I legit thought had broken my ribs. (I’ve thought that once all this passes, I must get her into martial arts. I haven’t been hit that hard by some adults.)
Later that day I took a long walk and had it out with God. One thing that Tab has been screaming at us during frustrating moments is “Why do you hate me?” And I found myself asking God similar questions:
“Why are you allowing all this misery to my brother and my family? Do you hate us that much?”
Some Older Son from the prodigal son crept into my thoughts. If not for myself, at least for Tab and especially for my younger brother, Joe. I’ve had my rebellious times and in weaker moments, wonder if my past will catch up to me. Maybe this is finally it and my long con is up. But I don’t know anyone more faithful than Joe.
“Hasn’t he been faithful, giving you all of his life? And in return you let his family experience the trauma of his heart attack and now all this terrible cancer. If that wasn’t enough, now all this terrible letdown with the transplant.”
I particularly feel such frustrating heartbreak for my wife and sister in law. They are experiencing the kind of trauma that my flesh questions at times wondering how they won’t be irreparably damaged.
I guess it’s the pastor in me but my heart also feels so bad for the many who hurt for us and are wrestling with anger, frustration, and questions.
I am frustrated the most for my daughter. She has always been an exceptionally aware child. We’ve joked, too aware. That awareness is hard right now. She’s gotten so many great gifts and things to distract her but she doesn’t care about those things. She just hates what her life has become. Her normal infuriates her. Even more worrisome, it deadens her spirits and usually exuberant approach to life.
So I brought all that to God in the middle of a drizzle soaked walk. And he showed me a visual picture of my daughter screaming and kicking me from that morning. He showed me my face and asked what I saw. And I didn’t recognize anger in my face. Rather, I saw a heart of a father who feels so bad for his suffering child who can’t comprehend all of this pain. The lashing out in fury not spewing out of hate but from a deep pit of pain. A kind of pain which was never intended to be familiar to the human existence.
I thought I didn’t anymore but I realized that I still carry some deeply ingrained belief that God in the pursuit of his glory will do whatever he needs to do in my life to get me in line, including letting me suffer. A more toxic view of God as a father, perhaps tainted by the distorted reflection recognized in too many fathers of this fallen world. And though the loving discipline of a father is real, our Father is not abusive. Because of Christ, he is not against me; He is so for me. And in my deepest anguish, he’s not hoping that this gets my attention so I finally straighten up and get my act together. Rather it’s the heart of a loving father who weeps at the pain his beloved child is enduring. Whose very own beloved son cried out from a tree asking why Dad had forsaken him.
God isn’t giving me too many answers lately. I know all the right theological answers for suffering. God knows how many sermons I’ve preached on it. And I think I can genuinely say I believe. Still I have unbelief.
Yet God is reminding me he is with us, even if my frail eyes can’t recognize it. In a landscape that has been too devoid of good news, this gives my weary soul the hope to take even one more step this day.