This week I had an encounter with death. This week I also encountered disability and disease. My good friend's beautiful Siberian Husky died Monday night. Several good friends live with significantly serious disability. A good friend has terminal cancer. Other close friends live with blindness, neurological disabilities or diseases and the prospect of their pain increasing. Some of these friends will never be better this side of heaven.
Disability, disease and death happen. Why? Where is God? Is He asleep at the switch (or even sending a text message like the engineer in California recently was when his train collided with another train killing and seriously injuring many passengers) when this kind of pain comes?
The WHY? question is our feeble attempt to make some sense out of pain and suffering and death. More often than not, we don't know the answer to WHY? We scream "WHY?" into the darkness of death, disability and disease. Does this kind of terrible pain happen because God is just not powerful enough to stop the big stuff or because it slips past His notice?
Are disability, disease and death part of God's plan? Or are they the result of mis-laid plans or even evil intent? Are disability, disease and death horrible, tragic coincidences? Is evil spinning out of control? Is God either unwilling or incapable of stopping these big three: disability, disease and death?
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrestled with the WHY? question following the death of his son. He concluded that often there are things God just isn't powerful enough to stop - like disability, disease and death. Rabbi Kushner's conclusion is certainly not what the Bible says.
Joni Eareckson Tada writes in her devotional book Pearls of Great Price: It's one thing for God to deliberately let something awful happen for reasons we may not understand, but it would be another for God to wish He could have prevented it, but have one hand tied behind His back. Either God rules, or Satan sets your life's agenda and God is limited to only reacting. In which case, the Almighty would become the devil's clean-up boy. Although God would manage to patch things up, your suffering would be meaningless. ... No, the real tragedy is that any Christian would settle for such darkenss with the light of the Bible shining so clearly. If God didn't control evil, the result would be evil uncontrolled. Our suffering has meaning because " ... His kingdom rules over all." (Psalm 103:19) (from "The Real Tragedy," November 30th)
Nothing else makes sense! Nothing less gives comfort in the midst of disability, disease and death! Only the sure knowledge that God is God and that He is working His plan in the world and in individual hearts brings peace and comfort in the midst of struggling with disability, disease and death!
God's promise is sure: "For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) God always keeps His promises! We can count on that no matter what we encounter. We can be sure that no matter how dark the darkness disability, disease and death may bring that God is there with us in the pain and darkness. He sees and knows what is happening. He is still on His throne, and He does have BOTH hands on the switch. Nothing happens (not even disability, disease or death) outside His plan! His plan is to give hope and a future and not to harm us ever!