It is 9pm on a Sunday night & it is 105 degrees out there in the world beyond my wonderful air conditioned home! The sun of sunny California can actually be too much of a good thing sometimes! The last 4 years our AC was broken so I lived in front of a small fan on days like these so...yah, I am extremely thankful for our brand new AC in the house!
Something else I am thankful for this week is the very powerful force called "joy". Our church family is walking through one of the worst experiences I have ever been forced to endure. Hubs & I have been close friends with & worked with our Senior Leader & his wife for nearly 25 years. A week ago Saturday their 31 year old daughter who also attends our church died suddenly of a blood clot. No warning, no reason, no explanation. The pain is overwhelming & frightening.
My faith was tested this week. My deep belief that God is good was questioned & examined. I don't think that I have faced anything in my life that truly had to "try out" the strength of my faith in God like this tragedy has. The trite platitudes that people speak in these times are all wrong & do not represent the God that I have come to know. You know the sayings, like, "God must have needed another angel, so he took her to heaven." or "He just loved her so much he called her home."..... UM....no, I & the rest of my church community do not accept such silly & unhelpful words.
It is a mystery why this happened. We do not have the answer. I don't know why some people get healed right before my eyes & others do not. I don't understand why the majority of children in the world are living in extreme poverty while we bask in a Toys R Us land! There are so many unanswered questions, that a person could easily become a true Eeyore if they watch too much news on TV.
The first 3 days after getting the phone call about our friend's shocking death, I circled my house in a daze of questions & fear. I could not go to my God for comfort because I was too angry at Him for letting this happen! It left me feeling like my feet were on slippery ground with absolutely nothing to grab onto. If I could not trust Him to protect my kids & my friends then what in the world was I to trust? My rock-solid foundation was crumbling & it was mind-numbingly frightening.
But I also knew that He can take my questions. I have learned in just the last few years that God is big enough to welcome my anger & my doubts, He wants me to question the things I hear in the pulpit on Sundays. The bible is full of stories of people in hard situations & when they asked God their accusing questions, He answered the questions they should have asked. So I stopped with the wrong questions & asked a right question. Where are you God?
He said, " I am right here, ready to hold you, just like I am holding her parents."
This morning her parents talked about resting in the goodness of God even in this nightmare of crap that is happening to them. (Their words.) They have chosen to not live in sadness or madness. Joy is not the same thing as pleasure. Joy is a deep, living thing that can be underneath the sadness. Joy is not giddy or silly, it is strong & intentional. The grief is not being pushed down or even held back. It comes & overwhelms them without warning. Our church community is on the same page & we watched a video of her growing up years & thanked God for the crazy, daring & full life that she led.
Personally, I faced all my old fears again during those first three days last week. I cracked open the door to them & almost allowed them to make me go back to hiding in my house & never trying anything new ever again. That is how I lived for 40 years; always choosing the safest option, the least stretching job & relationships. But my young friend certainly did not live her 31 years like that & for me to do that now would be like asking a butterfly to crawl back into her crusty old cocoon again! Not gonna happen! I am choosing joy...even when it does not make sense.