Being in full time ministry since 1985, I have been with a lot of people who received bad medical news. Of course many times, even as pastors, we find ourselves offering the ‘pat answers’ embedded within shallow clichés. On June 17, 2008, the tables turned. I received a call from my Doctor telling me I had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a type of cancer within the body’s lymphatic system. I knew what this could mean as I have lost two close friends from the same type of cancer throughout my life.
I have always loved everything about apologetics–the search for balance, the answers to life’s questions, the response to objections to faith. However, the most difficult question in apologetics came down on my life with force and fear–“Why me, Lord?”
I surrendered to the Lord at an early age. I have sacrificed, as all Pastors do, much time, energy and finances to share God’s Word. NOW, this is what I get? I know many think Pastors are beyond such questions…but we aren’t, not if we are honest. How could God really love me as His child and send me down this path? I wouldn’t do this to my child. The questions flooded my aching soul like a breached dam. I found myself pouring over the various prayers of David in the Psalms and found great comfort in knowing that the questions were common.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
(Psa. 13:1-2, ESV)
God’s answer came several month’s later as I sat waiting to begin radiation treatment. Chemotherapy had already taken a huge toll on my physical body. The questions still lingered within my heart. Then, the Lord orchestrated a friendship with another cancer patient. Bobbi was a sweet lady, but not a Christian. As my wife, Susanne, and I began a friendship with her, the Lord spoke to my heart in gentleness and grace, “I put you here for her!”
Suddenly, through the Lord’s grace, I realized that He had placed me in a place to reach out to another person going through cancer who did not know Him. Now, there was purpose in my suffering… there was a special grace… there was a calling into and through the suffering!
Bobbi died six months later. However, she did not die alone, as we were able to help lead her to faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior. We may not always learn the answer to “Why me, Lord?” However, we can be assured on the authority of God’s Word that everything which comes into our life must pass through the Father’s Hands and be filtered by His great love for us!
When life slaps us down and we face tough and fearful questions, we can go to the Lord in prayer and be honest and open. The Psalms and the book of Job are living examples of God’s children presenting deep questions to God about their circumstances. Our questions will not scare the Lord off, surprise Him or make Him abandon us. He is big enough to handle them AND to hold us in His faithful hands!