It has been a real struggle for me to decide what to write this week. Lately, it feels like so many people are experiencing a lot of pain and anxiety. People are struggling with an unexpected cancer diagnosis, the death of a parent, a failing marriage, and a CAT scan that shows a brain tumor. This past weekend, a tornado ripped through the farming community leaving a swath of destruction in its wake. There is ongoing mourning and outrage for victims of bombings that kill fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. Many of us are feeling anxious about the political leaders worldwide who are trying to establish the governing power of their nations. All of this pain, fear and angst has touched my spirit and at times given me a feeling of hopelessness. Where is hope to be found in these feelings of doubt and helplessness?
A couple of years ago, the question of God’s will hit me front and center and forced me to wrestle with my previous beliefs regarding our free will. When I lived in Colorado Springs, I had a conversation with my next-door neighbor in which he was continued to wrestle with his grief for a son who was accidentally killed by his older son. He shared that as his little toddler was sitting on the living room floor, the older boy started climbing on the bookshelves. He climbed high enough to pull the bookshelves down on top of the little toddler and they killed him. My neighbor was devastated and he said these words, “I guess it was the will of God.” Everything in my mind, body and spirit screamed, no, no, no! How do you comfort a parent who is filled with such pain? I shared with him that I did not believe it was God’s will for his little boy to die. It was a horrible accident. I am convinced that God wept for this little guy. God wept for the guilt the brother may carry with him for the rest of his life. And as a parent who lost his only child, God wept for the parents who mourned their precious child. If that accident was God’s will then the brother would have been marked from the womb to accidentally kill his brother. The toddler would have been destined to die before the age of two. That doesn’t make sense to me with the God who gave us his Son Jesus so that through him, God could live among us and experience the human side of us. Jesus loved children; he healed the sick, and touched the lives of many regardless of what they had done or who they were. Through his Son, God showed us how to care and love each other even in tough times. This is a God of love and hopefulness.
In times like these, we may ask why God didn’t stop this accident from happening. I certainly have asked the same questions when my marriage fell apart. Why couldn’t God fix my broken relationship and stop divorce? What I have come to understand is that God loves me and wants the very best for me. God is with me through thick and thin, the pain, and the hurt and anger. God was even with me when I chose my partner, and when our relationship was broken. What I now realize is that God created us with the freedom to make choices. Sometimes what we choose are good and others not so much but God is still in the mix and works with the choices we make to guide us with love. Sometimes it is in the pain that we recognize our need for God. It was in the pain of my divorce, that I sought a deeper, truer relationship with the Creator and learned to trust the words found in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” Time and again in the gospels, Jesus assures us that we are important to him much like, the widows, orphans, the poor and anyone whose lives he touched. This is where I find hope. Being hopeful is not easy, especially in times of pain, however we can be assured, God is in the mix, walking and sometimes carrying us through our deepest and most painful times.