Her name was Janis, and she was truly one of the kindest, funniest, gentlest earth-angels I have ever known. For a brief period of wonderment we worked side by side on a church staff. She was our Children’s Director, and her vibrancy and love for her task still inspire me today. An Army wife, mother of two, and everybody’s favorite, Janis lit up the rooms of our lives with her presence. And then came the cancer.
Two months after she died, I finally had a chance to get away and process my grief. I lived outside Atlanta at the time, and naturally I fled to the Outer Banks for this purpose. It was March; a cold and windy and gray-on-gray kind of March where the ocean roars with huge pieces of foam that fly off the waves and stick to the houses.
I couldn’t find comfort anywhere. I walked the beach, sat in the house at night, got up at 4 AM to stare at the moon over the sound, but peace was elusive. I missed her so much, and the hole she left at the church gaped wide. I could not fathom how her children would negotiate their mother’s death. I had lost a best friend, and I was ANGRY.
When enough sleepless nights had taken their toll, I walked out to the ocean to deal with God. A Nor’easter had come in overnight, and the wind practically cut me in half. I walked up steps covered in two feet of sand and made my way to the top of a dune. And it was there that I shook my fist at God, yelling, crying, snot flying in the wind…it was raw, ugly, and it went on for hours. HOW DARE YOU TAKE HER FROM US.
Finally, FINALLY, the rage inside of me subsided. I was wrung out, poured out, emptied of all my wrath and self pity. And God looked down at what was left of me and said, “Are you done yet? ‘Cause I’m still here, and I’m still God.”
In the book of Job we see a fascinating study on suffering. The bottom line teaching from Job is that God is in steady control of all of life’s situations, and after we work through our emotional responses to things, God is still God.
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.
He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
And there it is. I don’t have to understand why God does what he does, but I do have to understand his sovereign goodness in my life. I will never be able to fathom his ways, but I can look to him as the author and perfector of my faith. Trying to find answers to the mind and workings of God is a fool’s task; but we can understand the HEART of God, and that is where our peace will be found.
In the end, we will all be together. In the end, eternity far outweighs the blink-of-the-eye span of earthly existence. In the end, God is God, and I am not.
If you are standing on a dune of despair and confusion today, take heart. God is with you in the storm, and everything that is happening is under his control. You may not understand why, but understand this: his love for you will never end. You are his, now and through infinity and beyond. Hang on. No storm lasts forever.
Photo by Michelle Robertson.