“Why does God let it hurt so much?” my 4-year-old son cried in the dark , waking up with a sore throat and fever.
“I don’t know, but do you want me to pray with you?” I asked, lying in bed beside him.
It was all I could think to do after having already offered him juice and a pain reliever. Pulling Asher close, I wrapped my arms around his small chest, tilting his burning cheek toward my shoulder, asking God to make him feel better even as I wondered at his haunting question.
Losing our precious daughter Ruth three years ago plunged me into a crucible of faith. I asked God to direct my life when I was young, falling in love with Jesus in first grade. Yet, here I was three decades later, struggling to believe that God was good, that he was in control, that he even existed.
This summer when someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer, it seemed to confirm my suspicion that God could not be trusted. Or why would he let someone who has devoted two decades to serving him be struck with such a devastating disease?
I’ve heard preachers say it’s wrong to ask God why, the way Asher did, crying out in pain. Have they so quickly forgotten Christ’s words on the cross?
“At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’” Matthew 27:46.
There it is, in the thick of suffering, from one who did no wrong: Why.
Like a river that ends beyond our vision we cannot see the answer. When facing incomprehensible questions, some reject faith in a personal, loving God. I choose to go deeper, to draw closer, to acknowledge my doubts even as I seek answers.
This week I glimpsed a flash of understanding in a most unexpected place – Rosemary Sutcliff’s young adult novel, The Shining Company, which I picked up for two bucks at Goodwill. You may know this late, British historical-fiction writer for the recent movie The Eagle, which is based on another of her books.
In the one I’m reading, a boy asks a smith why both soft and hard metals are used to make a beautiful sword. “Without the hard iron, the blade would bend in battle,” the smith says, “and without the soft iron it would break… It’s the strength of the blade that is the aim of all this; the beauty is by the way. The beauty is by the grace of God.”
When shaped by God, the hard things in life build strength, the soft kindness and compassion. In a world stricken by sin, we need both. The first step, as with my son, is to cry out to God. Through him, I find the beauty.
“Faith Notes” runs every Friday on the Worship page of The Times Record. Each week’s column appears here with my photographs the following Monday. If you’d like to read this in your paper, please send me the contact information or share this link with an editor. Thanks for helping spread the word!