We’ve switched the headline, but the story continues. This is part 6 of our continuing story of Alan and Lynn. Now that Lynn has passed away due to metastasized breast cancer, Alan is left to deal not only with his grief, but his view of a God he was certain would heal her.
From Alan on May 26, 2019 (30 days after first email):
Thank you for writing back. I appreciate your being here for me through this horror, this nightmare. I realized yesterday that for almost 35 years, I have had a best friend, a companion that I talked to every day. She’s gone. I can’t converse with her anymore now.
We became fast friends before we fell in love and knowing she won’t be here to encourage me and to let me encourage her is unbearable. She won’t be here when I get home from work, we won’t go to the grocery store together, and on and on it goes.
She believed not only in me but in the dreams God has placed in my heart. She was my biggest—sometimes only—fan, and I am so empty now knowing I will never hear the “I’m proud of you, Alan” in her sweet, precious voice again. She encouraged me to write, to get ordained, to be faithful with my podcast, to preach God’s love, and to do my best in my “secular” job.
She never allowed me to stay in my thoughts of frustration or rejection. Now the sounds of my wailings, my sobbing, my screams of “Why God!! And Where are You, God!!” are all I hear.
I will re-read and read again the words you’ve written to encourage me. I pray God will bless you greatly for your investment of time and life in me.
You will get past this, Alan. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Isn’t it such an amazing gift that Father gave you? Your own personal cheerleader, to encourage you to God’s best. You will learn to treasure what you had more than you feel cheated for no longer having her. But I suspect she is still with you. No, not in some occultic way, but in all that encouragement stored up in your memories. I know when I travel, and Sara isn’t with me, I can go away from a conversation knowing precisely what Sara would have said to me had she been there. I know those moments she would have been proud of me and which she would have grimaced a bit at my response. In that way, she is still with you.
What you’ll also learn is to take your validation and encouragement from the Father himself. There is no substitute for a well-placed, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” especially when it comes from him. The grief will give way to that light in time. I know it is so dark now that all other light is eclipsed by it. But it will not always be so.
From Alan on May 27, 2019 (31 days after first email):
Thank you. I feel like I know what you mean about knowing what Lynn would say. I just wish I could hear her say it.
I don’t believe God is counting my sins against me, but I am starting to wonder if He is punishing me for things I did in my past that were not pleasing to him. As a child, I accidentally said something bad about the Holy Spirit, and I have been scared my whole life that I have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and wonder if I am really born-again. All of this terrible stuff is so much to deal with. It just does not align with my thoughts that He loves me. It’s funny that preaching that message is the life’s mission that God has given me, yet I am confronted with questions I never thought I’d have.
I understand about wanting to hear her say it. Unfortunately, that reality has changed, and it will take some time to get used to it.
As to your fears that Lynn’s death is some kind of punishment from God— He. Just. Isn’t. Like. That. For God to take some careless words of a child and use them against the love of his life some 50 or 60 years later, would never happen. With each email I get from you, I see the self-talk that will only drive the pain deeper by eroding your faith in a loving Father. You need to find a better conversation with yourself and a self-compassion that more reflects the nature of the Creator.
These next words may sound harsh, but I don’t mean them to be. You’re trying to see these circumstances with a control you don’t have. You were not the determining factor in Lynn’s death, or the healing you hoped for. That doctrine of healing will crush you.
These are the brutal days of grief, Alan; don’t make conclusions here. Don’t give voice to fears if you can help it. Stay in the fountain of his mercy and know that God already has a way for you through this and beyond it to greater freedom and joy ahead. It is what Lynn would have wanted, as you would have wanted it for her….
From Alan on June 2, 2019 (37 days after first email):
Thank you for your email. I appreciate your candor and encouragement. I cannot be making any of this horrific journey without God having brought you alongside to help me, and for that, I am sincerely grateful.
I went to our church this morning without Lynn. I realized I have not been in or around the church for the past 33-34 years without her. She would hold my hand and make sure I was staying awake, and I would put my arm around her, and she’d move in a little closer to me. All of that is now gone.
I have been honest and transparent, and I will continue to do so.
Wayne, I’m having difficulty handling the notion that “God is our deliverer” or “God is our refuge” or songs like “I’ve seen Him move mountains and I believe I’ll see Him do it again” or people saying, “Just find strength in Him.” My mind responds with, “He allowed Lynn to get cancer and then refused to heal her in this realm. How can I rely on Him now? How can I pray for me or someone else when it is obvious that it ultimately may not be answered?
I feel very disappointed. I know that God owes us nothing—he gave his Son, and that is the ultimate gift. But, all these verses and promises in Scripture seem to not be as meaningful or reliable to me as they once were. Lynn even wrote in her journal that she believed for miraculous healing here on earth. We were fully invested in believing the “promises of God are yes and amen in Christ” yet here I am all alone with no hope of Lynn ever coming back, and I guess I just feel let down.
God is not a genie, I get that, but what is the point of having faith when in the end you stand a great chance of being let down.
I feel the weight of his taking Lynn and allowing me to be all alone, and it is so heavy. But, I will try to count it all joy at some point. Just probably not today.
Isn’t it precisely at the moment we feel most disappointed and broken that we need a refuge and a deliverer? If God is ever that, this is why and this is when. I’m praying that you discover that. I’m confident you will, though it may take some time since your theology of suffering and healing seems to be a barrier to that. It’s the theology that needs to die, too, so that you can discover God as he really is. He is the only sure anchor in a broken creation that deals out death and destruction to us all. The promises in the Bible were not to give us a free pass to get out of suffering but to give us a real and present God who can hold us through the challenges and disappointments that we face in this broken Creation.
Every book in the New Testament speaks to our suffering in this world, and that Jesus will be in it with us. The promises were not so we could get what we want, or even what we think is best, but that God is at work through it all until his glory enfolds all of Creation again. That’s a great day coming. Until then, we live in the pains of childbirth, yearning for all to be set right. It just isn’t yet.
I’m sorry you didn’t get fifty years with Lynn, though I know you’ll get an eternity with her. For the time being, you’ll have to learn to live beyond her presence with you. Of course, that will be eminently more difficult if God is the cause of her cancer, or even if he “allowed” it. Or, if for some unknown reason he volitionally decided NOT to heal her despite her hopes and your prayers. I don’t even think he “took” her. Those are all illusions Christians use to try to make death tolerable. It isn’t tolerable. It’s a rift in the Creation—a temporary accommodation to our sin and the hope of a coming Resurrection.
You’ll get through this, Alan. I’ve known lots of people to lose spouses at 35, at 45, even at 75 years of age, and find themselves as broken as you are. Yet, surely, God’s grace will rebuild a path for you. He still has joy for you as hard as that may be to believe. He still has people for you to unveil his life to, and those you can love and comfort in his name.
What makes this much more difficult is that you see God as the cause of your loss and pain. How can you come to him as a refuge, then? The enemy has come with lies to besmirch his character, which is a tactic as old as Eden. He didn’t cause Lynn’s cancer or her death. He wasn’t complicit in it, and he grieves with you at what this has done to you.
Any theology that even has God “allowing” our sufferings is unworthy of him. It makes him the divine abuser, and that’s not who he is. He is the redeemer in the story, sometimes healing, but more often the one who comforts and restores those still living. I grew up with the idea that if we just knew Scripture well enough and how to work it, we would never have to know pain or loss. We’d always be healed and live to a ripe old age. That belief caused me no end of disappointment and disillusionment. Some day we can talk about why that isn’t fair to Scripture or to him, and that God’s participation in the Creation is not as easy as our misinterpretation of those Scriptures allow. But in the fog of grief, I don’t know that this is the best time.
If you can even for a moment suspend your certainty that Father has done these things to you, that he chose against yours and Lynn’s desires, you have a chance to learn about a Father more compassionate and caring than you’ve yet known, and of a Kingdom far deeper and far wider. You are loved, Alan. I know you have been gravely challenged by one of the worst things that can happen to a human, but God is bigger still, and he can walk you through this in a way that will transform you and your capacity to walk alongside others with his wisdom and grace.
I know you’ll find that. He is faithful to his children. He will win this wrestling match going on in your soul because I know you genuinely want him to. You want to see him as he really is, and this circumstance inside the heart of a loving Father. I know you may feel far from it now, but just keep coming to him, trusting that his love is not less than you believe, but more than you can see.
To be continued…
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