This is the first Nugget in the new series, the full title of which is:
A Puzzling Paradox
Pain & Praise, Suffering & Solace, Grief & Glory
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
(Making Sense of God When God Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense)
This series has been simmering for a while. It’s time now for it to come forth. I am excited about it. Why? Because I am amply qualified for it? Who is up to such a task? Who is there on earth able to explain the mind and the ways of God when Isaiah tells us:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9
What brought me to the point of beginning such a series and makes me think I should tackle such a difficult topic?
Who in their right mind imagines they can explain one of the mysteries of God?
- My qualifications? A resounding NO!
- My training and expertise? Hardly
- My life experience? I think inadequate for such a task!
- My gift with words and story telling? I think not.
What then? What would motivate me to brazenly tackle such a task that most would shy away from?
Simply my involvement with a number of teams over recent years. The teams are as follows:
- Team Bethany Wake
- Team Miah (Jeremiah Glassie)
- Team Kate (Kate Diprose)
- Team Honour (Sergeant)
- Team Gavin (Gavin Harris)
- Team Phil Carr.
These special people are walking a pathway that makes us all look on in wonder and awe, fear and trepidation, pain and praise. Now and then gaining solace in the midst of watching their suffering and then the gains and improvements. At times catching glimpses of glory amid the pain of grief, while our minds are weighed down with a flood of recurring questions. I am not going to retell their stories. Many who know me also know one or some of the above situations well. I am simply giving you the indication that this Nugget series is birthed out of very real, current situations.
During this series I will seek to address the major questions that come to all of us in such contexts. The first of which is “Why God?”
I seek to solicit your questions as well. Allow me to lead us through an attempt to address our questions and puzzlement when faced with situations similar to what these families are facing. Many of you readers know one of two of the backgrounds to these challenges the families face; you are on one or more of the Teams. I will share answers and input as is appropriate but will not seek to retell or add to their pain and struggle by dwelling on the details of their experiences without their expressed permission. Just simply consider these families and their situations as examples of our common human condition and the associated struggles we face for which we seek answers from Almighty God.
As I do, when approaching the Bible Gems I write, I welcome your questions. I am perfectly able and skilled at coming up with questions for God. I have been doing it for 40 years at least. Actually in reality for as long as I have been on this planet and able to ask questions. But as with the Gems, I invite you to add your questions too. I will work my way through your related questions and arrange them in a logical order as I seek to tackle the hard questions voiced by all of us but specifically faced by these six families represented above. I wish to investigate this Puzzling Paradox thoroughly in order to provide some answers, primarily for the families above. To do so I have gathered some friends, but I will introduce you to them in the next Nugget.
I seek to take you on a journey, a quest of seeking answers from God who sometimes hides Himself.
Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. . . [LITV]
Truly, O God of Israel, our Savior, you work in mysterious ways. . . [NLT]Isaiah 45:15
Come with me on this quest to find answers from this God who hides Himself in order to find out about His ways that are higher than our ways.
Please share your questions with me. I have promised you in the lead up to this series beginning it would be raw and honest, at times gut-wrenching. I don’t wish to be sensationalist in any way but I do wish to be thought provoking and to deal honestly and openly with the tough questions that we all ask given the circumstances these six families faced or face above. The fall out of which they are still dealing with and it is that fact that I believe will be a help to all of us. To aid our search I will draw on my experience and my wealth of real life stories gathered over years. I will introduce you to many friends and acquaintances who are willing for me to share their stories with us all. If nothing else this series will be real, honest and God centred for that is who I am.
Let me begin our series by introducing you briefly to the people for whom I am writing. Real people with real life stories which are their stories to tell in detail. I only seek here to set the background of why I am writing and who for:
Bethany Wake is the daughter of two great Wycliffe friends. Bethany contracted a brain tumour in 2010 and passed on to be with the Lord the following year. Bethany kept a journal and Lyn and Dave have turned it into the devotional book Heartbreakingly Beautiful with Bethany’s input. I will use excerpts from that book as appropriate and with their permission.
Jeremiah Glassie (Miah) is a remarkable young man who lived his life passionately for God. Miah contracted a brain tumour and received his home call on December 17th last year after a couple of years battling a brain tumour.
Kate Diprose is another remarkable young girl, 12 years old who has battled Leukemia since it was discovered when she was 3. Kate has been in Melbourne receiving T Cell treatment and those of us on Team Kate are looking to the Lord to bring all the circumstances into alignment for her to come back to NZ Feb 15th to continue her journey to wellness in her home country again.
Honour Sergeant is yet another remarkable little seven year old girl whose parents became aware needed a kidney transplant when she was 5. After all the tests and challenges Craig and Andrea were informed that Andrea’s kidney was a match. Since Honour had the kidney transplant the family have been on a roller coaster ride of up and downs. Currently she is doing well with only a minor UTI.
Gavin Harris is a former student of mine from when I taught high school many years ago, who is battling cancer and making progress. This is the second time cancer has hit their family, as his wife Tania battled the same dreaded disease some years ago and beat it. We are on Team Gavin as well praying for another success over the Big C.
Phil Carr is a friend and colleague from Wycliffe who is a Bible Translator in PNG. Phil is currently in Cairns after being taken there on a medical emergency flight after falling ill as the result of a strange condition and is now fighting for his life. We have now joined our sixth such Team – Team Phil.
All of these people are friends and acquaintances whose situations I feel deeply and pray for daily. This is all very personal to me and I pray intensely for each situation listed. I pour my heart out to God for these dear people. Their very different, yet similarly situations, have drawn from me all sorts of emotions and reactions. How much more intensely and personally those closest to them? It leaves us with questions before our God. It is these situations and resultant questions that I wish to address. Why Lord, Why?
I will share my first question with you and then I will wait for some questions from you, my readers, to round out the challenge before us in facing such circumstances which could strike anyone of us. Oh believe me, I can come up with some good questions on this topic after a lifetime of pondering such things. Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God in it all? Why is God silent at such times? Those are general questions.
Here is my first real, honest gut-wrenching question. It is shared between me and my pastor Arnie, not Swartzenegger, but Hall. Some weeks ago we were in church and a testimony was shared by a lady whose 80+ year old mother had been told a tumour had been found in her chest. Her daughter told us of the process and how prayer had ascended for her mother. When she went back for further tests before surgery was to be scheduled, she was told the lump had gone. It had just disappeared. Wonderful news. This was shared in the same service when reference was made to Miah’s passing and his farewell service. My mind immediately connected the two situations. As I left the service I started talking to Pastor Arnie and made mention of this upcoming Nugget series and the fact that I would solicit readers questions. Arnie responded, “Well I have one for you.” I think I recall he added the word doozy or some similar adjective. “Well I have a doozy of a question for you.”
“Why does God heal an eighty plus year old woman and allows a 20 year old young man to die?”
Right there and then, Arnie had taken the question right out of my mind.
Exactly! I said to Pastor Arnie Hall, “Well you will have to ask that question and add it to the compiled questions for this Nugget series.”
Yet just as Arnie stole the question from me verbally, I now preempt his written question, and start us off with that DOOZY of a question. Given THAT to be the question to start us off, I am sure you can come up with some more choice question to ask. Ask away.
I am now thinking:
“What am I doing, starting such a series with a question like this?”
“How am I going to come to come up with answers?”
“What if I can’t answer some questions?”
“What am I doing? I must be out of my mind.” (Oh I have thought that before when I began some Gems series.)
Despite such conflicting thoughts I am excited about starting this series. I believe God is going to do something significant through it. Another one of Ian’s foolhardy ventures that God turns into something good. Now where have I heard that before.
These Nuggets will be posted weekly on a Saturday (The LORD willing).