The woman sat by herself in the airport terminal—silent, withdrawn. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want to breathe. In fact, it hurt to breathe. She wished she could be anywhere but here, going anywhere but where she was going. Just two weeks before, a trusted friend handed her a small piece of paper with a Scripture verse scrawled across it and told her to tuck it away in her journal. “It will make sense later.” The woman did as she was told, then forgot about it.
It’s funny how life often seems to turn on a dime. Was it only yesterday that she was happy? “God is great,” she thought. “God is good.” But just 24 hours later, the world went mad and nothing made sense. Instead of joy, all she could feel was deep, dark, inexpressible grief. Glancing up to check the flight monitor, the woman sighed and opened the small leather-bound notebook she always carried. Staring back at her was the white slip of paper with the verse from her friend. “Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). “It doesn’t matter now,” she thought as she read it. “Nothing matters.”
Hours later the plane reached its final destination. Waiting among other anxious greeters along the causeway was an unfamiliar couple holding a sign with the woman’s name printed on it. They had come to drive her through the night to the hospital. The trip was awkward and silent. There were no words to express the tragedy of what was yet unfolding. Finally arriving at the hospital, the long, terrible night continued, and at 6:08 the next morning, a beautiful, blond-haired baby boy was thrust into the world. All the air left the room, and with it, all sound. Silent nurses carefully swaddled the baby before handing him to his mother. He was perfectly formed with ten toes and ten fingers as all babies are meant to have. One last keening cry from the woman’s daughter filled the space as she cradled her own flesh and blood for the last time. At last, it was the woman’s turn to hold the beautiful baby, her grandchild.
A compassionate nurse brought in a rocking chair before slipping out to give the family time to say goodbye to this little one they hardly knew, but loved with all their hearts. As the woman rocked back and forth, she cherished the feel of his sweet, body still warm from the protective cradle of his mother’s womb. “You could change this, God,” she cried silently. “You could.”
Under her breath she sang a song she’d sung for all the children. “I love you a bushel and a peck; a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” Somehow the words fell flat as she thought about the ever-tightening umbilical cord that ended all hope of loved one’s warm embrace. “God; I think I’m going to hate you,” the woman thought.
Oh, I know it’s not seemly for a believer to think such a thing, but even the most devout Christian has questioned God’s love, or His sense of justice and mercy when life makes no sense. All around us people are walking through deep waters feeling like they can no longer hold their heads above the swells that threaten to engulf them. The pain and grief, disappointment and hurt are too much to bear. Yet people we know, and even some we love, are slipping away, and we don’t know what to do about it.
Derek Prince addressed the issue of deep pain in relating his own struggle to go on after his wife’s death. He referred to Psalm 84:5-6: “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.” The Hebrew context for the word, Baka, is that of a weeping tree. Taken together, these verses speak of God’s promise for life-giving springs and the blessing of early rains for those who pass (make a pilgrimage) through deep sorrow and grief.
Against all odds, the woman in the opening story found this to be the case. After months of tireless efforts to simply put one foot in front of another, she was returning one day from a trip to town when she passed by a familiar scene where the peaceful rolling hills offered juicy green grass for cattle who seemed not to have a care in the world. She was determined not to look, but couldn’t seem to help herself. As she glanced out the side window, a spring of living joy unexpectedly bubbled up within her. “Oh, Lord, You are so lovely!” she cried out.” How was this possible? Her loss was still permanent, her grief still deep. And yet, she felt her compassionate Savior’s loving embrace in that moment. In C.S. Lewis’s remarkable book, “The Problem of Pain,” he says, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” Even if we remain quiet before our passionate, caring God who at the moment may feel very distant, the stones will cry out (Luke 19:40).
There’s no doubt that unthinkable personal, national and even international events in recent months have caused some to ask, “Why me? Why them? Why now?” Too often senseless crimes against humanity, broken relationships, betrayals, sorrows, heartaches and disease wreak havoc even on those who least deserve it. The Bible tells us we will have suffering in this world, but still our finite minds cannot comprehend why this is so. What we do know is that even when we don’t understand, Jesus is moved with compassion for those who suffer. As Derek Prince said, “When you go through the valley, you’re sharing something very precious and wonderful [with Christ]. You come closer to the Lord than you’ve ever been.”
Just as He did for the woman in the opening story, God asks you to love and trust Him even when life makes no sense for He will never leave you, nor forsake you no matter what you are going through. Jesus bids you to come away with Him to the still waters of His love where He can restore your soul. Test Him to see if His word will come true for you as He promised. Believe that what makes no sense now may be the very thing He will use to accomplish your good for His glory. When all hope is lost, the prophet Isaiah reminds you to look to Him and be saved (45:22). The Lord’s power has no limit!
“You alone, O Lord, are my hope. You alone are my safety. You alone are my strength. May I—even with my fears and anxieties, my insecurities and uncertainties—swing like a needle to the pole star of the Spirit. Amen.
— Richard Foster
– Francine Thomas