Dave was a quiet and unassuming man. He endured two bouts of cancer, the second one taking his life. After I had delivered a presentation on suffering, during which I had quoted a man who said he welcomed cancer if it would bring him closer to Jesus, Dave’s widow approached me and told me he had said the same thing.
That, my friends, is faith and trust in a nutshell. Am I willing to trust God and have faith in his plans for my life even if it means suffering? Job, known for his inexplicable suffering, said of God, “Though He slay me, yet shall I hope in Him” (Job 13:15).
In last week’s column, I wrote about transitions and mentioned that my family is undergoing an unwanted and unexpected transition that has interrupted our lives and plans for the future. At one time, it’s devastating; it’s painful; it’s challenging in ways I could never imagine; it’s destructive; and it’s just not fair.
We’re never promised “fair,” but somehow we still expect it. Life has never been completely fair; what’s frustrating is that it is not designed to be. Learning to accept the “life is not fair” axiom is one of the lessons that teaches us to cope with an ever-changing world filled with injustice, poverty, loss, tragedy and heartbreak and to hope for a better one.
The only answers -- let’s call them guidelines -- that I find to work through and live with “life is not fair” transitions come from a life of faith in Jesus Christ. In every transition I have experienced, both positive and negative, the faith that guides my choices and actions has informed me that though life changes, God does not.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is ever-present, ever-caring, ever-knowing, ever-powerful and ever-faithful. As often as I have strayed from my faith, I know that he has never strayed from his commitment to me. He has seen me through many transitions, and he will see me through this one, though I cannot see my way through it.
Even though this transition is painful, I know that the Holy God I serve understands the throbbing ache in my heart. When my heart is fragile and my soul is weak, I remember that God sent his son to live as a human and to endure a myriad of painful experiences, culminating in his horrific death on a cross as an innocent man. He reminds me that suffering is a part of that “life is not fair” philosophy and that He’s been there.
Yet there was purpose in Jesus’ suffering. There is purpose in mine, though I cannot tell you today what it is beyond learning to trust God for every need that I have. In time to come, I know he will reveal much more about the meaning and purpose of this transition, but for now, I endeavor to persevere and to listen to his still, small voice encouraging and strengthening me.
Sometimes, I am very sad. I cry. I cry hard tears that stain my cheeks, plug my nose and swell my eyes to almost full closure. My head aches and my sinuses reveal their anger by pulsing beneath the skin. I’m miserable. Yet I cry and think of Job, who must be the most exceptional example of “life is not fair.” Job said, “My face is flushed from weeping and deep darkness is on my eyelids” (Job 16:16).
Teachable transitions are often the most difficult ones we face. We’re a stubborn lot, we human beings. We think we deserve it all, “all” being the blessings of life. Perhaps we need to change our interpretation of “blessings” to mean the “life is not fair” lessons that teach us to trust God and to place our hope in him -- lessons that teach us that life is about so much more than our temporary comfort.