Here in Northeast Louisiana, we are getting our first substantial rain since the late spring months. All summer, the ground slowly dried up into dust, making it get to the point that it felt like it would never rain again. It was as if dust was our new reality. Ponds dried up. Plants died. Wild animals seemed to almost beg for water. Nothing thrived, but just seem to suspend itself in dormancy until relief came.
Today, relief came. It’s a slow, soaking rain. The outer bands of Hurricane Patricia are helping us out of our drought. It makes one want to be thankful for such a storm. Thankful for how a strong and mighty storm that is on the other side of a country can reach over and pull us out of a dull, suspended, dry life. It will bring new life to our world and the animals that live here. It will make things feel new and fresh again. The rain is a blessing.
But it’s hard to look out the window to that water and not realized what is really happening. One of the biggest storms of recorded history is creating havoc, destruction, and most tragically, death to the people in it’s path. It is no blessing at all. This is a nightmare.
So what does this have to do with cancer? Well, a thought came to me while I was driving around this morning. I thought of two different people I know. Both young and full of life, both having to go through a hurricane of a storm. One having the words “remission” and “cancer free” at the end of the battle, and one with “terminal” and “there’s nothing else we can do”.
Like the rain pulling us out of the drought, one calls for much rejoicing. “Praise God!”, “He heals!”, “He renews!”, “He is a faithful God!”; and one, like the people of Mexico… one calls for anguish and sorrow. “Why God?”, “where is He now?”, “We are forsaken!”
Same storm, different outcomes. How do I sit here looking out to my backyard, rejoicing as I watch the rain come down, when I just watched a video of people being swept down river sitting helplessly on top of their cars? Same storm. How do I praise God for His goodness and His mercy for healing one friend when the other lay unhealed and slowly dying? Same storm.
And here is the truth.. I have no answers.
I wish I did. Oh, don’t we all wish we had them. All I know is that this is “life”. These are the circumstances that we have been given. Some of us go through the storm and come out of our suspended, dull life. We thrive, just like the plants do after a long, soaking rain. We survive to tell others and hold their hands when their own storms come.
And some, some get swept away in the storm. One did not believe more than the other. One did not have more or truer prayer prayed over them. It’s not fair and it’s not explainable. It’s just tragic.
Romans 9: 14-18
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
There is no easy answer to “Why God?” But maybe the question should really be, “What now, God?” Researching has brought me to this wonderful message by Lee Strobel, written in response to the Aurora movie theater shootings. I will close with this, as it says everything else that needs to be said.
As that wise man once said to me: God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation. Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity; He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote these words: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” Every tear we shed becomes his tear.
And then the wise man told me this: it’s not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. After all, any close friend can do that. Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. No, Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. Because if you’ve put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.
So when tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will – and when you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: you’ll find peace to deal with the present, you’ll find courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven.
As I’ve been saying, all of us will go through pain and suffering. But let me end by going back to this specific tragedy that took place two days ago in Aurora. For all the things it leaves us confused about, one of the truths it clearly illustrates is that life is so fragile and short. These people were going to a movie! They had no clue that this might be their last moments in this world. Friends, in this sin-scarred world, we never know when death will come knocking. Often, we don’t get any warning when a heart attack strikes, or when a drunk driver crosses the centerline, or when a wildfire sweeps through a canyon, or when an airplane loses power. And so the question I’m compelled to ask you is this – “Are you ready?”
One of the first verses I memorized as a Christian is 1 John 5:13: “These things I’ve written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
God doesn’t want you wondering. He doesn’t want you steeped in anxiety over whether you’re headed for heaven. His infallible, inerrant Word says you can know for sure. So settle it now! Resolve this today, at this moment, so that if tragedy were to strike, your eternity with God would be secure. I don’t know all the ways God is going to draw some good from this Aurora situation, but wouldn’t it be something if He were starting right now, with you personally, and using this message to bring you into His kingdom at this very moment? Let the pain of that tragedy open your heart to Christ. Let’s take what was intended for evil and watch God start creating something good from it.
Pray with me right now to receive Christ – so that you can know for sure that even if the very worst thing were to happen to you today, it will immediately be followed by the very best thing of all.
“Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the unique Son of God. I confess to You that I’m a sinner. In repentance and faith, I reach out right now and receive the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life that You graciously purchased on the cross when You died as my substitute to pay for all of my sins. Please, Lord Jesus, lead my life – because from this moment on, I am Yours. I pray this in Your name. Amen.”
IMAGE: SCOTT KELLY/NASA