In April of 1977 I buried my father after his nine month battle with colon cancer. Beginning at the emergency surgery in June of the previous year he lost ground weekly. His once sure steps gave way to a cane then a walker followed by a wheelchair. Finally his bed became his domain for the last months. I grew to hate God as I watched that cruel death. I determined that faith in Him and serving His wishes was pointless. Who wants to follow a God who allows such suffering?
I quickly learned, as Jonah did, that one cannot run from God. Though I had no clue as to the why of the events unfolding before me, God had a plan, His plan. He fanned the embers of my failing faith back to the heat of commitment. I determined that despite the pain I had to trust Him, I had to take baby steps of faith, and I had to move forward as He directed.
I wish I could tell you that event was a one-time battle, fought and won, but the struggle continues. Forty years later it is Mom who is dying of cancer and my anger toward God bubbles again as I question the why. Why has He not answered my prayers for her healing? And if she must go this way why does He not ease the pain? She has served Him faithfully through life’s twists and turns. She has made a difference in countless lives.
I often park on these verses when I battle doubts that arise because of adverse life events. I confess that sometimes the words help and other times not so much.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 NASB
Isaiah wrote these words while he stood neck-deep in adversity, and I find courage in his faith. Isaiah wrote that God’s plans, formed long ago, transpire with perfect faithfulness. Read these words slowly and consider the meaning.
O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. Isaiah 25:1 NASB
I’ve been thinking much about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three prisoners of war ripped from their families and surroundings in Israel and relocated to Babylon. Their story, found in the early pages of the book of Daniel, is worth a read.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego might have adopted the lifestyles of the Babylonians and compromised their faith. They had an up-close look at what Babylon had to offer bright young men. They opted for another route, though, and at great cost.
Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath erupted over their refusal to worship his idol, and the three young men were sentenced to die in a fiery furnace.
In the estimation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Babylon held nothing to compare to God. They stood in agreement with God’s view who would later give this testimony about Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, and the Babylonians (Daniel 5:25), “…you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.”
With deep confidence in God Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego testified that should God not deliver them from the king’s hand then death was preferable to denying their God. Can circumstances become more adverse? Can confident faith be demonstrated more plainly?
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18 NASB
In my struggle I have to choose. Do I believe that God is working a plan formed long ago with perfect faithfulness? Can I trust Him even when I don’t understand the pieces of that plan, when all around me appears to be chaos?
Those are questions we all must answer. Often more than once.
Faith in God is not an insurance policy against adversity. But faith in God is the only option that makes sense no matter the troubles percolating around me.
This is my time to choose wisely.