There are some things (more like many things) that I just don’t understand about life. I know that I am not alone in thinking this. We all get thrown curve balls. Perhaps in our jobs, our health, our relationships, our faith among other things. Stuff just doesn’t work out how we imagined it would.
I flicked through my Facebook page to see that there has been a second earthquake in Nepal. It has come only two weeks since the first one that killed over 8000 people. If we start talking politics, I was surprised and saddened by the result of the General Election. Nobody predicted the result – not even the polls. Another curve ball for many. The 9 months of unemployment I have experienced is a recent curve ball in my memory.
Closer to home, a dear friend of mine recently died suddenly after having a major seizure, which caused him to stop breathing and subsequently to go into cardiac arrest. It was unexpected. He had been suffering with an unknown illness for several months, but nobody had expected this. He was my first friend at the Christian Union at university, a follower of our Lord Jesus and a compassionate friend. He had been taken by God at such a young age. I felt deep sorrow for several days before I finally let the tears fall at the service of thanksgiving for his life.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
What future and hope did my friend have? It looked hopeless. I read verses like this and try to place them over my life and the life of others without fully appreciating that God’s ways are higher than our ways. He uses the wisdom of the world to shame the wise. He uses the weak to shame the strong. He does things in a way that my human self cannot comprehend.
In situations like cardiac arrest, natural disasters, unexpected circumstances and death, does God become obsolete? Is He indifferent to the suffering of us and the suffering of others? Is His word void when trouble strikes? Sometimes it an feel like we are the psalmist in Psalm 77:7-9 who says:
Will the Lord turn away forever? Will He never show favor again? Has His loving-kindness stopped forever? Has His promise come to an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be loving and kind? Has He in anger taken away His loving-pity?
But we know that He is there in times of trouble…
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
What’s more, the psalmist in Psalm 77 chooses to remember all of the things that God has done. He has done truly amazing things through His people in times of trouble. God can make all things work together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) – even the challenging, ugly stuff which seems like all hope has faded.
I will remember the things the Lord has done. Yes, I will remember the powerful works of long ago. I will think of all Your work, and keep in mind all the great things You have done. O God, Your way is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God Who does great works. Psalm 77:11-14
There is real honesty in the Psalms which I can relate to. There are times when I just don’t understand life. But I know that God does.
There is purpose in every problem. There is a point to pain. There is peace in the midst of problems.
Christ Himself demonstrated this on the cross. To those who looked on at the suffering Messiah; who sent Him to be crucified; who mocked Him and told Him if He was the Son of God to save Himself; to the onlookers who were left grieving at the loss of Jesus. There seemed to be no hope or explanation. They were even told by Jesus what was to happen, but they just could not believe or comprehend it.
But Christ’s pain had purpose. His death provided an atonement for the sin of all humanity and everlasting life to all who believed in Him. He conquered death by raising from the dead three days later. He is now seated at the right hand of God. He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us so we are never alone when disaster or tragedy occurs. He has made a plan for our pain.
My friend believed in the living Christ with all his heart. When his heart stopped beating, he departed from this world to be with God forever. He had fought the good fight of faith. I may struggle to understand the plan God has put in place at my friend’s passing. I stand helpless like the family of Jesus at the foot of the cross not realising the victory that Christ has claimed for all mankind. But I know that like Christ’s resurrection, this is not the end. There is new life in Jesus and my friend has a new life, free from all pain and suffering. He is with the Lord that he worshiped and I know that I will see him again at the appointed time that is set for me.
This same friend prayed for me the night before I left university in early 2011 to return to Norfolk to begin six months of chemotherapy treatment. I will never forget that night. I had no idea what the Lord was doing, except that the life I had planned for myself felt like it had been snatched from beneath me. He prayed in faith for the next coming months and for healing.
Cancer was my curve ball. It changed everything. It set me back a year in my studies. I had to say goodbye to some of my closest friends. I had to undergo treatment which made me tired and ill. I had to shave my head as my hair began to fall out. I saw friends in my life continue living whilst my life seemed to come to a stand still. I felt forgotten as life ticked on by without me.
But you know what?
- Cancer brought me closer to God as I relied on Him and not myself
- Cancer gave me a chance to reflect on my priorities
- Cancer held me back a year, which gave me an opportunity to meet my future husband
- Cancer gave me the opportunity to help others through participating in a clinical trial
- Cancer let me experience this sickness and to empathise with others
- Cancer sparked my interest in nursing
- I am now working in an Oncology unit in a hospital to help other cancer patients.
But was it cancer that did all this?
God had a plan for my life from the beginning. Who would have thought that the 19 year old with blood cancer would work with cancer patients only 4 years after treatment and stressful unemployment? Who would have thought the skin head with a drip full of toxic chemicals hooked into her arm would be married 4 years later? Who would have thought that such a change in plans and crazy suffering would bring me closer to God, rather than forcing me away?
He is the only One who could see it coming.
And this is why I stand in continued faith.
I will continue to have faith no matter what the curve ball.
I know that if my friend were still here, he would back me up on this. His faith is an example to me and so many others. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and He binds up their wounds (Psalm 34:18). We know that in times of great difficulty, struggle and pain that God is not far from us. What’s more is that He knows what we are going through because of the cross that Jesus endured for all of us. Finally, He has a plan for the curve balls and works all things out for the good of those that love Him.
He has a plan. We can trust Him.