Imagine you’ve stumbled into an operating room where a world-renowned surgeon is removing a brain tumor. Tiptoeing closer, you lean over the surgeon’s shoulder, just as his scalpel slices into a mass of tissue. “Stop!” you gasp. “I don’t think that’s the right place to cut!”
Ridiculous? Definitely! Arrogant? Of course! But how often have you and I corrected GOD--the Almighty Maker of the heavens and the earth--about what He’s doing? How foolish to weigh in with our 3 pound brain’s opinion against the Omniscient, who is all wise, all loving, and knows everything about everything all at the same time.
Yet I’ve done it. No doubt you’ve challenged God’s wisdom too. The Apostle Peter was no exception; he “corrected” the Lord more than once. When Jesus told the twelve He would be crucified, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him."God would never let this happen to you, Lord!" In other words, “You’re not going to die, not if I can help it!”
Jesus quickly shut up His well-meaning disciple, saying, “You're in my way because you think like everyone else and not like God." Peter couldn’t begin to imagine any benefit from Jesus’ death. Later, after Jesus rose from the dead, Peter understood, boldly declaring the cross was the “deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God.”
But accepting pain and suffering--daring to embrace the difficult and see the benefit in what looks bad--took time for Peter. It was years before Peter was able to confidently write to persecuted believers: “You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm. God will be in control forever!”
At the Last Supper Peter corrected Jesus when he realized Jesus was planning to wash his feet. Peter was horrified. “Lord, are You washing my feet?" Literally, every word is emphasized: “YOU... MY... FEET...WASH?!” I can imagine the Big Fisherman quickly tucking his feet under him as he balked, “I am NOT going to let You wash my feet! It’s just wrong!”
I get Peter. I often see myself in him (and wince). “Doing things right” and “fairness” are core values of mine. And, like the Big Fisherman, it doesn’t matter who I think is in error. If I believe something is not the way it should be, I will speak up. “Truth” is the one hill I’m willing to die on.
I protest the loudest when I think anyone in my family is being treated unfairly--or when something bad happens to them they didn’t deserve. (In grade school I once clobbered a boy with my lunch pail who was fighting with my big brother. Bill, however, rather than expressing gratitude, was embarrassed by my enthusiastic defense.)
My head understands “bad things happen to good people.” In principle I agree “the rain falls on the just and the unjust.” I’ve even told my children, “If you want ‘fair’ you’re on the wrong planet.” I have no problem believing we live in a fallen world, where things are not as they should be. Yet my heart still struggles with accepting the way things are, especially right now.
For almost two years my precious daughter has been battling stage 4 colon cancer. My faith “that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him” has been stretched tight. More than once I’ve badgered God, trying to get Him to do what I want: “Since You’re in charge, why don’t You heal April? You know what a blessing she is…”
I couldn’t fathom how the death of April, a wonderful woman who daily enriches the lives of everyone she touches, could work for good for her or anyone else. It defied all logic. After all, with the world the shape it is in, I have always been convinced it needs all the people like April it can get.
Recently, I was overwhelmed by fear of the dangers of her first radiation. I whimpered, “Lord, are You going to take my daughter from me?” Instead of “putting me in my place” for questioning God’s goodness, I remembered how gently Jesus spoke to Peter after he refused to let the Lord wash his feet. "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this."
Rather than upbraiding me for entertaining doubts about His wisdom, the words of Jesus comforted me, just as they did Peter. I let the soothing scripture, like a salve, wash over my hurting heart as I whispered Jesus’ Words, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this..."
Our gracious God is not shocked when we refuse to accept suffering. Ever so patiently the Holy Spirit unveils its value. This side of heaven, I may never fully understand the purpose in pain. Until then, I rest on this Rock-solid reality: “As for God, His way is perfect: The LORD's word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.”