my God, why have You forsaken
Why are You so far from saving
so far from the words of
O my God, I cry out
by day, but You do not answer,
and I am
restless all night. (Psalm 22:1-2)
In January 1994,
doctors diagnosed Kim (my wife) with cancer. The turmoil of
our schedule over the next six months of treatment matched
turmoil of our souls as we
wrestled with the age-old questions.
Is this God's punishment for something
we have done? Or discipline? Or a test? Or just
something that happens in a fallen world?
We've had plenty of opportunities since
then to ask the questions again, and over time I've
drawn the following conclusions.
Under the new covenant I'm not sure God
punishes anyone this side of the grave. He's not in the
business of dealing out retribution for its own sake and
the proliferation of evil suggests that He stays His
hand far more often than not.
Secondly, we know that the Father
disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Could our
hardship fall under this category? Absolutely. But no
good parent disciplines their child without clear
explanation. An unexpected and unexplained smack on the
backside serves no purpose but to confuse a child. It
fails to train them. Similarly, the Father's discipline
will always have a clear reason and origin.
Our third possibility is a "test." The Bible
tells us that the Lord tested Abraham (Hebrews 11:17).
Perhaps our suffering falls in this category. But
remember, God never tests us to defeat us. His
tests have a single purpose: to build us up. Satan, by
contrast, tempts us to harm and destroy us. Not so with
the Lord. But ultimately, we can only discern a test
How then should we evaluate our pain
Punishment is so rare we can virtually
rule it out. If we see no clear cause and effect, we can
also dismiss the likelihood of discipline. And since a
test is best assessed in hindsight, we're left with just
one authentic option -- persist in faith.
Faith in His goodness is our best
It's natural to ask "Why?" We all do it.
But for those who follow Christ, the more important
question to eventually ask is "How?" How shall we draw
nearer to Him and express our trust in Him, despite the
chaos in which we find ourselves?
Then perhaps we shall declare with the
Psalmist after his anguished cry in Psalm 22:1-2:
"Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One
.... In You our fathers put their trust; they
trusted and You delivered them. They cried to You
and were saved; in You they trusted and were not
disappointed." (Psalm 22:3-5)
In HOPE --