Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Praying for Erica: Rob's Musings

Every time that the Jacob's Journey community is confronted with a new tragedy, though it is a blessing to pray and see the Lord work, my heart sits a little heavier in my chest; but I'm not so sure that it is a bad thing. A heavy heart opens us up to others, to suffering with people, which is so central to being carriers of the Gospel.

Like many have been, I was hit hard with this news of Erica, a 17-year-old college girl, who I don't even know. Why, God? Why 17? Why lethal infection? Why 2 days to live? Why not at a point in her life where she could have been more settled, with her parents, not in the hectic atmosphere of adjusting to a new school? Why not me? Why not some other time?

Why, why, why, why.... we can sit all day and ask why. We can come from a comfortable posture of sheltered Christianity, where joy is misconstrued into happy thoughts and nice things, where the austere, metaphysical God of Western philosophy/theology is in control, therefore causes all things to happen, therefore he caused this seemingly bad thing to happen... therefore everything is OK. Or we can admit that evil exists in the world.

The fact is this: June 28th, 2009 was, in my estimation, an evil day. Not to say that it will not in the future be a day where we can celebrate what God has done. But there is no use saying that this day in my life was a good day with a good ending, because it was an evil day with a bad ending. Before the Resurrection, Christ died. "Good Friday" really wasn't so good, was it? The promised Saviour, God's anointed, Yahweh incarnate, died a horrific death. That is tragic. Traumatic. Scars remain. But this evil becomes a signpost, pointing to the goodness that God has in store. Awhile back, my dad said to Jacob: "It could have been much worse." Jacob replied, "Yea, but it also could have been better."

There is no use sitting around musing about what could have been. Evil occurs - it causes us to distrust, disbelieve, wear out, get exhausted... but in that place, I hear the cry of the centurion in Mark Chapter 9: "I believe; help my unbelief!" God does overcome. We must believe in the power of Resurrection. There will not only be glimpses of restoration in this life, but we will experience The Restoration in the future.

So what can I, sitting on my couch in Orange County, having never met this girl Erica with the fatal infection, knowing nothing about her, do? What can any of us do in those moments when evil overcomes, when we are powerless? When we get that phone call... a cancerous friend... a homeless stranger... an insane car accident... a diving accident at camp... an electrocuted brother... when death hits someone close... when abuse runs rampant... when a friend doesn't get it.... What can we do? Like the Israelites, we cry out.

This idea of crying out is not as simple as it sounds or feels. On one level, it is an utter trust in God when you are helpless. It is prayer that does not come out in words, but comes out in this groaning that blends the tragedy of the specific circumstance with the pure shock of seeing a tangible manifestation of the greater evil that exists among us. It comes down to trust - that God would not just stop the pain, but that he would do something grand out of this.

But there is also another layer... and it comes down to us. Yes, we cry out to God, but that does not mean that we are passive in the situation. At the creation of all things, God gave a commission to Adam and Eve: "fill the earth. SUBDUE it." Essentially, he gave them responsibility and ownership. After Jesus' resurrection, he gave a similar commission: "Go and make disciples." Followers of Christ do not have a minor part in the building of the Kingdom - they have a major hand. I say this just to convey the idea that "we are not passive". Yes God works in amazing ways, but he frequently chooses us as active parts in that way.

So back to the question: what can we do?
Pray. Similar to the "crying out" - groaning to God on another's behalf.
Believe that the Spirit can divinely heal. Stories similar to those of healing that happened in Jesus' time have not stopped. Pray that people in need would be surrounded by others who are tuned into this healing (I, for one, am not. I'm very skeptical in this matter)
Look around us. In the case of Erica, I have absolutely no direct hand in the matter. But if I did, I would be looking for tangible needs of the family. In the same manner, I look for those needs around me. In our day to day lives, it is not normally the case that extreme things like this happens. As my boss said at the beginning of this school year, it comes down to "little choices." We say that we would take a bullet for someone. But will we every have the opportunity to show that extreme devotion? Most likely not. Therefore, we must show it in little ways.

In sum, we can't just sit around waiting for God to do something or speak more clearly. We are given the ability to discern and make decisions. Therefore we seek to control what we can. How do we choose to react to situations? How do I respond, with my attitude, thoughts, actions, etc.

I could not trust a God who wants to make bad things happen so that I can grow or learn a lesson. That is sadistic. But I do trust a God who trusts me to make the best of what I am given. The decisions we make can have grand implications, but are normally manifested in little everyday things. "I will help jumpstart your car." "I will listen to you - really listen." "I will encourage someone out of the blue today." Little choices prep us for those major ones. I do not doubt that Erica's family will begin to see the little things in their life that prepared them and led up to this major shift. May our prayers for them and others be sufficient to saturate them in God's presence, may our prayers be carried out by real people surrounding them, and may the attitude of our prayers be carried out in every little decision that we make.

Dangit, that sounds really challenging!

Rob (Jake's bro)

1 comment:

Eric Williamson said...


This struggle I understand. These same thoughts have often gone through my head, and so I couldn't sit and not offer some insight into them for you. Hopefully they will have some value for you and the other readers...

Fundamentally, you are asking why bad things happen - to good people, to young people, to anybody. You mention the day of Jacob's accident and cite it as "an evil day". You mention Good Friday and say it wasn't good. I understand that - I have said similar things about June 16, 2008, the day Connor ran down a beach...

And yet, what I am finding is that, in every sense, I am completely unqualified to judge what is good and what is evil. A small example - when Connor was at Valley in San Jose, he was in isolation because of MRSA and psuedamonas. He was cleared of it and it was just one more day before we could quit wearing all the extra protective clothing and he could be in a room with other people, and we were looking forward to being released from these restrictions. That day, the doctors came in and told us they had found references to a third highly infectious bug he had and he'd have to stay in isolation. We were really frustrated. How could this bad thing happen when we had been praying so diligently that he be released from these restrictions? For two days, as they waited for test results, I railed on about how wrong this all was.

But - they moved us down to rehab during that time, and Connor was placed in a single room instead of the group dorm setting the other patients were in. And the day after we moved down, the results came back and he didn't have the third bug at all - but they left us in the single room.

God used the third bug to bless us with privacy and security in a place that has none. And yet I was convinced of the wrongness of the thing from the start.

I learned then that I really don't have a clue when it comes to judging "good" and "bad", because the only measuring stick I have is my own viewpoint, and that is necessarily subjective.

I suspect God looks at Good Friday as that point in time when the Gardener clipped a branch from a dying plant and transplanted it into a new Vine, filling it with new life and vitality. I suspect He sees Jacob's, and Connor's, situations as what they are - the trimming, fertilizing, pruning, and care of a loving and compassionate God who desires His creation to grow into the final product He desires.

Your and my minds can't really grasp that - we can just trust Him for it or not - but I believe God calls us to see these things not from our biased, subjective viewpoints but from His - and when we do that, we catch a glimpse of something beautiful and glorious. This is what He means when we are called to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face... "and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace".

Be at peace, my brother. God is working mightily through Jacob, and Connor, and you, and I. He is. The things He does in and through our lives are truly neither good nor bad - they're just glorious, when you quit looking at them and look at Him instead.

Praying for and with you, my friend.

Connor's Dad