Many of you followed the saga of Alan and Lynn (not their real names) the summer that began as In the Shadow of Death and finished as When You Don’t Get the Miracle You Want. It’s a prolonged email exchange with a man whose wife was dying of metastasized breast cancer despite their faith and belief that she would live. She died a few weeks into that exchange, and our correspondence continued into the grief of her loss and the challenge to his faith when he thought his belief would secure her healing. You can read all 12 posts from the beginning starting here if you’d missed it.
I have continued to stay in touch with Alan over the intervening months, and thought I’d add on this one exchange from last week:
Today is 6 months to the day that Lynn died. It has been another difficult day. I am having a tough time remembering her in her beauty and love and kindness, the images of her in the hospice bed dying before my eyes are crowding out the good. Wayne, why did Jesus say “I will” to the leper and “I will not” to Lynn and me when we said we believe He can heal her if He will. We had zero doubt about His ability. I am so broken trying to make sense of my Father saying “no.” I suppose there are no answers now, and even in eternity he may choose to not reveal why. It is our place to just try to trust that He is good even though we don’t understand. I’m trying.
I didn’t know what day it was but knew this would be a brutal day when it arrived. A day that was so filled with celebration now becomes a marker for pain. That’s what grief is meant to walk us through—to recapture those memories with joy instead of being devastated by them. It does take time. I know we’re perhaps a long way from that kind of thing, but your self-talk now will take you one of two directions—either deeper into disillusionment and despair, or through the darkness of grief and into a light that shines more brightly on the relationship you shared for thirty years.
You know I don’t agree with you about the “I will not.” Do you think the God you know would have listened to your and Lynn’s prayer and for some capricious reason decided, no, not this time? Really? What kind of Father would that be? Her healing was never going to be about you believing enough or saying the right prayers. God’s work in the world is not to give all the good stuff to those who trust him, and all the bad stuff, like cancer, to people who don’t. You asked God to heal your wife. I would too, in the same situation. His answer wasn’t, “I will not,” but it rather might have been…
My beloved son, Alan, there are considerations here you don’t even fathom and couldn’t if I tried to explain them to you, or else I would. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but that I could not, not because I lacked the power or desire to do so, but because of other factors in play that you don’t know about. I am so sorry. I knew you would take that out on me for a time, and I was willing to risk it because I know that at the end of the day your faith would win out. I am good, and Lynn knows that better than anyone living on earth right now. What I did or didn’t do was not about whether or not I loved you or her, but simply that this was the best of all possible solutions for all else that I’m doing on the earth.
I would never ask you to understand that, given your horrible loss and your limited perspective, but I do hope you’ll find a way to trust me in this and look beyond it to see what good I will yet do in you and through you. Lynn is safely at rest in me, and she yearns for the day when you will join us, but there is so much more I want to share with you right where you are. Stay the course. Find your way back to love and trust simply in the strength of my character, not in your ability to understand it. You are mine, Alan. Your time is not yet. There is more day to live until the dawn in which all of this will make more sense.
Wow! Thank you!. That is the most amazing response ever! You must have been attached to the portal of Heaven because that came from the Father, no doubt! Thank you for being patient and willing to be used by God in my life as opposed to being impatient and preferring to ignore me or tell me to stop bothering you. I love you and thank God for you. I hope that 2020 will afford an opportunity for me to tell you that face-to-face.
Too often, we come to conclusions about God from our limited perspective that are wildly untrue and wars against our intimate life in the Father’s love. If we could only see what he sees, we would understand, and until then, we have to trust what we know of him—that he is a loving, gracious Father, who is not wanting to add to our pain but wants to walk us through it into greater freedom beyond.
You might say we judge God through the knothole of our own pain. We’ve all done it, but it never leads us to what’s true.