Have you ever heard someone ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or the ever popular “Well, if God is so good, why am I suffering?” Both good questions, both have stumped theologians the world over, but both have an answer.
In the fall of 2009, my little family entered a time of extreme financial distress. We had a rental house that was destroyed by a renter who owed thousands in back payments and found ourselves unable to find a buyer. My husband’s health began to crash due to stress and I had to take on two extra jobs to make ends meet. It seemed like whatever we touched during this time would crash and burn. I began to look for the biblical plague of locust on the horizon. Until I got the news: I was expecting again.
We were overjoyed and thought maybe the tide was beginning to turn. Maybe God was moving us into a better place. Maybe….just maybe.
My kids were thrilled and I spent my days daydreaming about whether the baby was a boy or a girl, picking names, telling our family. That little baby became our symbol of God’s goodness, of hope.
Several weeks before Christmas, I began to hemorrhage. My husband rushed me to the hospital and after a night in the ER and several tests, the doctor came to see me, shaking her head and telling me she was sorry but the baby was gone. It seemed like a dream. I could hear the doctor talking but couldn’t focus on what she was saying. There was a buzzing in my ears. I felt salt in my mouth and realized with a start I was crying. I walked out of that ER feeling abandoned, broken and numb.
I would love to say that I cried myself to sleep that night, but sleep never came. I cried all night, alternating between disbelief and pain as the reality of our loss fell fresh in my heart again. I lay facing our large window, watching as the first streaks of sun painted the night sky. And that’s when I heard it.
A lone, solitary bird singing its heart out.
Just speaking for the state of Arkansas, birds don’t chirp in the dead of winter. It’s too cold, too miserable. Yet I heard it just the same.
I rose from my bed and walked slowly to my window, looking out at our pond and meadow, trying to find the source of that sweet music. My breath fogged the cold glass. As I stood there empty and vulnerable, I realized with a start that the little bird I heard was making a choice: despite the cold, despite what the rest of nature was doing, that little bird chose to rise from his bed and sing.
So I faced a choice: I could either rail against my Maker, blame God and let the bitterness consume me, or I could praise Him. Praise Him for the weeks that He gave me rejoicing and nurturing His creation. Praise Him that He sees the big picture and really does know what’s best. Rejoice that because of Jesus, I would see my child again. I raised my face to the sky and whispered the words of Job, “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
Several months later, I rejoiced to discover I was expecting yet again. I thought we had weathered the storm, came out victorious, and God was getting ready to pour out more blessings. I was wrong—the storm continued. At almost four months along, I miscarried again.
It would be a lie for me to say that I sensed God’s presence with me during the second miscarriage. I didn’t. I felt abandoned, alone and broken. I kept praying Father God, is there some secret sin that I’ve been harboring that I’m not even aware of? Why? Why is this happening again? Then I got mad. Not mad at God, but mad at Adam, at Eve and that awful, lying snake!
God never promised we wouldn’t have heartache. He never promised that we would never face cancer. He never promised we wouldn’t suffer the horror of abuse. But what He did promise was that no matter what life throws our way, He would walk us through it. “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” He is with us in the ICU. He is with us in our empty houses. He is with us when everything crashes down. He is there.
Around the same time I miscarried for the second time, a friend of mine lost her baby too. She turned to me one day and asked, “Tara, are we cursed?” I thought for a moment and replied, “Yep. It’s called the sin curse!” I have had to remind myself that the sin curse is not God’s fault. It’s ours. Thanks to Adam, Eve and our enemy (who, I confess I fume at continually) we live in a world full of disease and broken people. It is a mess we have created and one that we will have to deal with until Jesus returns.
Daddy, there’s a monster under my bed!
What does a child do when they are in danger, whether real or perceived? They usually run to one of their parents. “Daddy, there’s a monster under my bed!” And what does the parent do? Comforts, consoles, absorbs their child’s emotions until they feel calm once again.
If we have been redeemed, God is our Father. “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) “Abba” can be translated as “Daddy”. Isn’t that beautiful? God is our Daddy. So when tragedy strikes, it’s normal to run for our Daddy’s arms. To let him reassure us, comfort us, and fight those monsters away. But sometimes it seems like we run and can’t find Him. And our fear increases.
But you know what? Just because we didn’t expect that tragedy to come, doesn’t mean that God has suddenly disappeared. And He never promised we wouldn’t deal with some tough stuff. This world is not how He designed it. Ever since the sin curse, we are broken and messy people. But He did promise that He would hold us as we go through our disaster and give us His strength to survive.
Free will comes with a high price. And God gave us that very thing: free will. We are free to follow Him, to walk with Him, to let Him love us. Or as a human race, we are also free to follow our own desires. And that’s where we mess up. I would daresay that the majority of sorrows and problems we face in this life are a result of the consequences of other people’s bad choices, not because there is an angry God trying to make us miserable.
I have seen it happen over and over again. I’ve had multiple friends who, after facing a crisis that shattered their world, would shake their fist at the sky, vowing never to trust God again. But God loves them too much to give up. Just like a patient Mom or Dad, He takes his tantrum-throwing child into His arms and rocks them until they calm down. He gently whispers into their ear until their screams of anger turn to gentle sobbing. He holds them tightly until those sobs relax into cleansing breaths. And at that moment, acceptance comes. And sometimes, even an understanding of why it happened in the first place.
And yes, you will have those moments when you’ll have to operate on what you know…not how you feel. That is faith.
The morning that I lost my first baby, when I heard that little bird’s frigid whistle and chose to praise God for the child I lost, I lay back down in my bed and tucked my knees up to my chest. I just listened to the song. So similar to Christ’s song: a song that gave glory to God despite the agony. As I lay there, peace seemed to cover me like a blanket. I felt like the Lord had cuddled right up beside me, much a like a father or mother embraces a hurting child. I sensed His arms around me and felt love unlike any other time in my life. He didn’t abandon me; indeed, He was there.
Every time I hear a bird’s gentle whistle, I’m reminded of December’s songbird…and I smile. I know that praise isn’t just designed for the moments when life is joyous. Praise is a choice.
What about you? What have you learned about praising God in the midst of tragedy? What lessons did you learn?
For more about this story, check out Tara’s book “Hollow Victory: Identifying & Disarming 5 Landmines That Makes Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie” at amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Victory-Landmines-Victorious-Christian/dp/1484100131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430148306&sr=8-1&keywords=hollow+victory+tara+johnson