So Many Questions...
I am sitting in my classroom at ELHS on this Saturday morning very, very early. I could not sleep hardly at all last night. Yesterday evening my phone starting "blowing up" with messages of the news that Mady Kelsoe had passed away after battling cancer for years. On May 15th her mother posted on FB that Mady's sweet 16 birthday was coming up on June 5th. She passed just a few days shy of that special day.
I truly wish I could remember the exact day, but several years ago I met this family as they visited the church I was pastoring at the time - Harmony Baptist. Not much longer after that I had the honor of baptizing Mady; there was a big crowd that morning celebrating with her. I don't mind telling you, I had a hard time "keeping it together" that day (and this morning is no different.) I must be honest and say that I do not remember every baptism in my years of ministry (sadly), but that is a day I think and hope I will never forget. I am so happy that they are still going to Harmony where the staff and people there have ministered to them and so many others with love and compassion and support.
I was sitting in my recliner when the messages came last night. As I sat there, I looked at the wedding portraits of my 2 daughters on the wall next to me. They had a few health issues along the way like most kids, but nothing even remotely close to what Mady went through. I thought to myself, why Mady and not one of my daughters? Like the title of this post says, "So Many Questions..."
I am a pastor. I am supposed to have all the answers to all of the tough questions. I spent HOURS last night all over the internet looking for other opinions on, "Why does God allow innocent children to suffer and die?" Oddly, the most intriguing site I found was by a guy in California who describes himself as in his 40's, a former Pentecostal Christian and current skeptic who is searching for evidence that will support his "failing faith in God and Christianity." I am kind of fascinated by this guy and sad and curious at the same time.
Let me propose this scenario / thought process that I am borrowing from this man in California... An 8 year old boy was walking home from school when he was abducted by (I should probably not give the name). That man raped and tortured the innocent boy for 10 hours, stabbed him 70 times before slitting his throat and dumping him by a river. The writer (skeptic from California) asks, what was God doing during those 10 hours? Did God welcome him to heaven after being dumped by the river lifeless? If so, did the boy ask why the last 10 hours were allowed to happen?? Could God have prevented those 10 hours? If so, why didn't He? I have not had time to verify whether this tragedy actually happened or not, but the guy does give specific names to the boy and killer and time frame. At this point, I will assume this is a true story. But these are the kind of questions that come naturally to our human minds. Again, I am "supposed" to have all the answers.
Like I said, I spent a lot of time reading a wide variety of answers to why God allows innocent children to suffer and die. I saw all the "usual" answers - and no, I do not mean that sarcastically - they are good, biblical answers. It is just that I have heard them over and over so many times and I wonder if we kind of get "numb" to them. Kind of like when we say something like, "You are in our thoughts and prayers." Is that just something that we as Christians have been "programmed" to say? We say it, then we move on with our lives as if it never happened?? Interestingly, just yesterday I was sitting at my desk at school and it was in between classes. A girl quietly walked up to my desk with her head down. When she looked up at me I noticed immediately she had been crying. I asked her what was wrong. She proceeded to tell me of something that was going on at home. I asked her how old she was - she is 16 - about the same age as Mady. I told her that I was sorry that she was having to go through this situation. Being a male teacher and her being a 16 year old female student, I am obviously and rightfully limited in how I can help her (can't text her, hug her or anything like that) but I felt bad for her. Then I went home and admired the new liner just installed in my in-ground pool and started making plans for getting the chemicals, new patio furniture, enjoying our pool, etc. I am ashamed to admit that I did not give that 16 year old girl another thought until this morning sitting right here at the same desk she approached with tears less than 24 hours ago. I am a pastor, I am supposed to have all the answers. I am a teacher in a public high school, my students know I am a pastor - I am supposed to have all the answers. I don't. My pride wants to have all the answers so people will be impressed with my spirituality and intellect. The fact is, I struggle too. All preachers do and they know it deep down. But hey, I've got a new pool liner and it looks amazing.
I also get a text yesterday afternoon from a friend my age. She started out the text saying that I am no longer her pastor but I am still her friend and asked me to pray for her husband who is struggling with a health issue. I told her I would. I will. It is Saturday morning right now, still fairly early. I am not their pastor anymore, haven't been for a while now. Their tithe does not help pay my salary anymore and my current church does not pay me to go visit people who are not a part of our church. But I told Amy I was going to drive to Huntsville to visit an old friend in the hospital. Am I bragging? No, I am changing. Believe me, I have nothing to brag about. The pool can wait.
So... I don't have all the answers. But I made a little list here of some of the things that I do know and believe with the strongest of convictions.
> God created us - all of us - in His image.
> God loves us - then and now.
> Man sinned, not God - He still loved us.
> Man tried to cover his sin by logical methods such as fig leaves - God was not pleased or impressed.
> God loved us enough to provide a means of atonement / forgiveness for our sin - shedding of innocent blood.
> God gave the law for our good - man broke it, repeatedly .
> God still loved us - even while we were yet sinners (see Romans 5).
> God became a man in the name of form of His Son - Jesus of Nazareth - via the virgin birth.
> God let His Son die, taking man's sin upon Him and exchanging it for His righteousness when we call on Him to save us from our sin (See II Corinthians 5).
> Jesus came out of the grave on the 3rd by the power of God.
> Jesus will come again for His bride in His perfect timing.
> Between now and then, we are to be progressively growing in our Christian walk through the process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit of God.
> God can do anything, His ability and power is not bound by anything.
> During this walk, there will be trials and tribulations (see Upper Room discourse, see epistle of James, etc.).
> I may not understand the trials and tribulations and I may have questions; but I answer to God, not the other way around (see book of Job).
> If I very seriously contemplate Romans 12:1-2 - especially that part about the renewing of the mind - it will help me in this walk.
Please - no comments here or on Facebook. I am not "fishing" for comments or anything like that.
Romans 14: 16-19
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