*CAUTION: because I don’t speak often, when I do, I have a lot of things to say, so I will be shooting a lot of parallel references. But don’t feel you have to read all of them. You can check them out at your leisure, if you would like. They are not intrinsic to this post.
So I figured it was about time that I chimed in with a dad’s perspective…
And this week’s theme of promise is very appropriate to reveal one of the main learnings from this road we have traveled since our Vivia was diagnosed with JDM and even before, when our Paolo Rio was born with a series of congenital, Mid-Line defects.
Immediately after these two traumatic events and their aftermath, my default posture was to begin wondering and asking “why?”
Why this? Why now? Why us? Why my children?
Now, if you have been in the corporate world more than 10 seconds you have heard that “it’s all about the why.” Author and speaker Simon Sinek became very popular with the release of his book “Start with Why” and his TED Talk has received more than 11.5 million views, since it was posted in 2009).
Also, if you are a little philosophical you have read this quote from Nietzsche:
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
The quote inspired Viktor Frankl to stay alive during his horrendous stint in Auschwitz and other concentration camps; and later, to write the obligatory “Man’s Search for Meaning” where he posited that suffering ceases to be so, once we find its meaning… its “why.”
But, with my utmost respect for Dr Frankl, the “why” question sometimes takes us down a dark, blind alley. One of comparisons and regrets and what-if’s and coulda-beens. If you ever have gone or still go down that path, turn around quickly and get out.
I have found that a better question to start is “What?”
WHAT is GOD doing?
“What is going on?” And, “what is GOD doing in the midst of this?”
Now, when I think about what GOD is doing, I have reoriented my thinking a little bit… I had to.
Maybe because of my upbringing, I used to think about what GOD is doing in these terms: GOD is allowing/making this to happen to us/me to (fill in your blank).
- Teach me a lesson
- Make me more patient
- Develop endurance in me
- Test my character
And while GOD may use trying circumstances for all of the above, I choose not to see him as a ruthless puppeteer pulling strings of pain to make me jump and dance.
For you see, He does not make illness and disease. Sickness, simply put, is the absence of his healing.
I have chosen to understand that He is using a horrid situation to come up with something good!
That is the WHAT He is doing! (Read Romans 8:28-30)
But here is the reality, bad things happen. And they happen to good people.
In fact, horrible things can happen to good people.
There is a story about horrible things happening to righteous people in the Old Testament which has had a great effect in my thinking, my attitudes and my life. In 30th chapter of the book of 1 Samuel we read about David and his army returning home after a military campaign. Upon reaching their town, they find it burnt to the ground and all their wives and children taken captive (verses 1 and 2).
At this point in history, David is an example of righteousness; he has had no extra-marital affairs, no Bathsheba, he has not sent anyone to be killed, no Uriah, he has not tried to hide his malfeasance from God and the people, no Nathan the prophet… all of that will happen years later. At this point, he is a genuinely good guy.
The story tells us their grief is such that they “wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (verse 4). Now, that’s a lot of crying. I don’t think I have ever been at a point where I had no more tears. I can always squeeze a few more…
Then the story tells us (verse 6) that the rest of the men decide to stone David (not the recreational type of stoning) and David becomes very “distressed.” No kidding! Wouldn’t you be? You just lost your family and now you’re sentenced to death!
That word “distress” is also used in the ancient Hebrew as the verb “to bind.” So it is safe to interpret that the story tells us that David is in a bind.
Have you ever felt that this condition, your son or daughter’s disorder put you in a bind? Did you ever feel you had nowhere to turn? You were out of options? Did you ever feel the weight of stones falling upon you?
But David’s response to this dire, painful situation is fantastic! The story goes: “David encouraged (or strengthened) himself in the Lord his GOD.”
That word “encourage himself, strengthen” it’s also used in the Hebrew as the verb “to fasten,” as in “Fasten your seatbelts.”
From “a bind” to “fastened”
David goes from being in a bind, in an involuntary situation, something over which he had no control: the kidnappings of family, the attitudes of his men, the consequences they wanted to inflict upon him; David could not do anything about that… He goes from that to WHAT he could do and control and where he could have an effect, where he could have impact; and that is, he strapped himself to “his GOD.”
I’m not too sure how to do that: gathering, praying, singing, reading, giving, fasting…
He never wallows in the “why me, why now, why this?” but rather he straps to the roller-coaster seat of GOD, tightens his belt and (verse 8) “David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this band? Shall I overtake them?” And He (GOD) said to him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and you will surely rescue all.”
I have thrown a lot of information at you. Please, take a moment because this is the main takeaway from this entire post….
Notice this, David asks two questions: “Shall I pursue?” And, “shall I overtake?”
GOD with three (3) “yes’s”: Yes, pursue. Yes, you will surely overtake. And, on top of that, you will rescue all.
That is the “WHAT” GOD is doing. He is working out the “pursuit, overtake and rescue.”
- Pursue: Yes, you will have to work and fight these conditions; yes, it is tough and demands all you have;
- Overtake: Yes, your children will be healed, healthy and whole!
- Rescue: BUT, there will be more! You will rescue (recover) the years, the time, the memories, the days in the sunshine, the running… outside…
Stay with the WHAT, then you may see and figure out the WHY, then the HOW (maybe… That is for another day)
Here’s how this worked out in our lives this summer:
WHAT: In in the midst of everything GOD decided to send us on a trip to Sydney, Australia! An unforgettable experience!
WHY: It was our Vivia’s dream to go there. He just loves to see children smile and smile, she did!
HOW: In our case, the means to make this dream come true came through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. To them, we are forever grateful!
WARNING: the fulfillment of GOD’s promises can take an unexpected shape and take an unexpected amount of time. That does not mean they are/will be unfulfilled. (Remember Abraham never saw the fulfillment, he only got to see Isaac. He never found out how…. Hebrews 11:8-12)
Let’s just be open-minded and open-eyed to see and receive the promise when it comes, in whatever package it comes.
Instead of going from WHY to WHAT to HOW
Start from WHAT to (Maybe) WHY to (Maybe) HOW
Help me see WHAT it is you are doing in _______________‘s life. What are you doing in all of our lives? What are you doing in our midst and with our mess?
I choose to trust and fasten myself to your plans and to your care and to your hands and to you!
Even when I can’t see how we will get over this, even when I don’t understand why this is happening to us, even as I feel we are in a bind, I will get close to you to do all that I can while you do all that I can’t!
My eyes will be open and my spirit alert to recognize your promise fulfilled, to see WHAT you are doing, WHAT you have done and WHAT you will do! For _____________________, for us, for me.
In Jesus Name,
(Let it be done)