I wrote this one awhile back, but it came to me today as I watch some close friends go through struggles. Hopefully it encourages you all.
I grew up in a bubble. You hear people say that. Yes, where I grew up, it was different. For years, I believed that. I grew up in a small close-knit community. I attended a small Baptist church where believers baked their favorite dishes one Sunday a month and had “fellowships” after the services. It was a place where people left their doors unlocked and kids played in the neighborhood until way past dark. I always thought I grew up in a bubble. And as a new Christian, I thought that God would always keep me from suffering. But I was wrong.
Picture it. A family of four snug inside a private hospital room. A mother, sick from cancer, lies unconscious in a bed. Her husband stares at her from across the room, a helpless look on his face. He’s looking at her like he did on their wedding day… like he’s never seen her until now. A tear falls from his eye and he unashamedly allows it to trickle down his cheek and land on the front of his shirt. His two daughters sit on the other side of the hospital bed. One daughter sits close, holding her mother’s hand. Loyal. True. A rock. The other one sits back. Eyes closed. Far away. As if trying to distance herself from the truth. Her head against the hard concrete wall of the hospital room. Headphones in ears, she tries to drown out the loud silence that screams all around her. Broken. Disheartened. A mess. She’s angry at no one and everyone all at the same time. But most of all, she’s afraid. The oncologist opens the door. The husband and daughters stand up almost immediately. He summons them into the hall, and obediently the husband and younger daughter follow him. The other daughter excuses herself and heads to the restroom inside the hospital room. The door cracked, she peeks for the first time at her mother lying in the bed. She hears the doctor’s voice whisper through the cheap, cardboard wall, “I’m sorry to tell you I have some bad news. The cancer is terminal. I’m afraid there is no hope.” From inside the tiny restroom, the older daughter hears her father and sister gasp for air. The news takes their breath, and immediately they begin to weep. The oncologist apologizes once again and then leaves. The older daughter has a new found faith that can move mountains. She prays for a miracle, for healing. Although she refuses to give up hope, her mother dies two months later.
When I think of the proverbial “bubble,” it makes me think protection. Isn’t God in the business of protection? Shouldn’t He be able to prevent this suffering from happening? Of course, He can! He’s God. Yet, somehow these terrible tragedies penetrate the perimeter of our lives and shatter our security. There is no such thing as a “bubble.” True, God loves us and promises to never leave or forsake us, yet we are not exempt from pain just because we call ourselves His children. We live in a sinful world. A world where scared parents carelessly abandon children in dumpsters while Godly couples grieve for years over infertility and the child they will never have. A world where cancer spreads and adultery pervades into the homes of our neighbors. We are not exempt from pain or the consequences of sin–whether it be our personal sin or the sin of those who surround us. But we must keep our perspective.
Though we live in a fallen world, though we are surrounded by hopelessness, there is hope.
Someone once told me after my mother’s death that I could either view God with “bitterness” or “betterness.” Bitterness slowly eats away at our souls and makes us question the very existence of our Creator. Bitterness leads us far away from the ones that love us and sparks self-loathing as well as disdain toward God. The prognosis for those who are consumed by bitterness is dreadfully depressing. But this concept of betterness is a 180 degree turn away from bitterness. Do we acknowledge the pain? Yes. But we do not dwell on it. Instead of writhing in bitterness, we look to ways that God can heal us, or make us BETTER. Questions like, “How could this pain have happened to me?” change into “How can I serve God BETTER regardless of my pain?” Instead of telling ourselves, “My life will never be the same,” we tell ourselves that “Someday my life will be BETTER because I will not allow myself to be taken down by bitterness.”
What we see as suffering now may be a part of God’s bigger plan for us.
And while we don’t live in a BUBBLE, we do have the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. We have the assurance that His ways are higher than our ways, and His paths are higher than our paths.