OK...We've had a little deviation from this topic for a few weeks now, but I really want to get back to it. Just a reminder...much of what I'll be sharing comes from Randy Alcorn's book, "If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil."
Since our experience with Hannah's cancer and ultimate homegoing, I've been very interested in the subject of suffering, particularly as it pertains to Christians. I think that as Christians, we often assume that if we "do everything right", we should be immune from suffering and hard times. God should see all the good things we are doing...going to church, giving our tithe, reading our Bibles, praying for missionaries...and exempt us from pain and heartache. But I think most of us have figured out by now that it doesn't really work that way. So how do we keep our faith from falling apart like a cheap lawn chair when suffering or tragedy comes our way?
I think one way to keep that from happening is to prepare for suffering ahead of time. When I learned how to scuba dive, I spent a great deal of time in a classroom, watching videos, reading manuals, and learning how to use the equipment before I ever did a Jacques Cousteau off the side of a boat. And breathing through a regulator under water (a totally unnatural feeling) was completely different than breathing through a regulator in my classroom at the Scuba Doo Dive Shop. Without the prior preparation, it would have been easy to panic when taking that first breath underwater. But because I had been prepared, I was able to relax and survive that first diving experience. In the same way, spending some time consciously preparing for the suffering that will inevitably come into our lives enables us to survive it when it comes.
So how do we prepare for unknown future events? Randy devotes many, many pages to the importance of our worldview. I love what he says about God's omniscience: "God knows everything, including every contingency, and He knows what is ultimately best in ways we cannot. God can see ultimate purposes and plans that we can't. He can know it is better for someone to die now rather than later: "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil" (Isaiah 57:1). We have no way of knowing, for instance, whether a disability might be used to cultivate personal qualities that would more profoundly honor God and bring the person greater eternal reward in Heaven. Because God knows all things in the past, present, and future, God is uniquely qualified to know when to ordain or permit evil and suffering and when not to."
For me, just knowing that God is fully cognizant of the big picture and that He is constantly working our His purposes is a huge help to me in understanding suffering and its purpose. We would never, ever have chosen for Hannah to die now rather than later...but in His total omniscience, that was His plan for her. Knowing that, and fully understanding that truth, makes it easier to face the continued pain of her physical absence in our home.
More to come on "If God Is Good..." in another post. That's enough on that topic for tonight.
Now a little housekeeping...You might notice a couple of additions to the blog. Just under the picture of our family in the road, there is now a place you can click if you would like to get additional information about how to schedule one of us or all three of us to come share at your church, Sunday School class, ladies' group, men's group, youth group, etc. And I've also added a link on the top of the right hand column where you can subscribe to my blog via email. To be totally honest, I'm not really sure what happens if you subscribe...you'll either get an email with the full text of my latest post, or an email letting you know that I've added a post to the blog. I subscribed myself, so I guess I'll find out after I publish this post! Anyway, a couple of people had asked for that, and I just now figured out how to add it. Hopefully it will work! I really do appreciate everyone who takes the time to read what I write...I always pray that God will somehow speak through me to meet a need in someone's life.