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Struggling for Meaning

For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

Lamentations 3:31-33

Joey (far left) and Connor (far right) at the Cub Scout Klondike Derby, January 2011

There is a boy in our community named Joey who is nearing the end of his battle with cancer.  He is 12 years old, and has fought this for five years.  He and my 10 year old son, Connor, were in Cub Scouts together.

On Sunday, Connor asked, “Mom, if God loves us so much, why are there things like cancer? If He loves us, why would He let Joey die?”

Whoa. I’ve struggled with that same question for the last three years.  In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer and died 16 months later. She was 64. She was truly one of the most amazing people you could have the pleasure of knowing. Beautiful, a caring mother, witty, charming, steadfast in her faith, quick to smile and quick to laugh, with a fashion sense to rival New York designers.  I watched her battle the effects of chemotherapy, then deteriorate and eventually succumb to “the beast” as she called it, and die at home surrounded by her family.

And there’s Joey. Brave beyond words, sweet, charming, funny.  YOUNG.  No child should be stricken with cancer at seven years old, have to deal with the pain of treatments and the effects of the disease for five years, and still lose the battle. And no parent should have to watch this happen to their child. My breath catches in my throat when I try to imagine what Joey’s parents are going through.  I feel like a toddler, but it’s true: it’s NOT FAIR.

So why, God?

When Connor blindsided me with that question on Sunday, a million thoughts raced through my head in a millisecond.  After stalling for a few seconds with, “That’s a good question,” I managed a few thoughts, paraphrased here.

“It’s hard to understand. I agree, it doesn’t seem fair for God to ‘let’ things like cancer happen. It doesn’t seem right that Joey should have to die. We struggle to figure out why. God doesn’t cause people to get diseases, he’s not a spiteful God. It makes God sad to see his children suffer.

“So it’s normal to ask why. I’ve asked myself that a lot, watching Grammy die of cancer. We have to ask ourselves what good can come of watching this happen? Maybe it makes us more patient with each other. Maybe it helps us be more compassionate.  Encourages us to get along better with our brothers and sisters. Makes parents stop and realize how lucky they are to have healthy children.”

Connor listened, seemed to think about that for a minute, and just said, “Hmmm.”

I keep hearing Connor’s question in my head. I keep trying to come up with answers. What good can possibly come from Joey’s life being cut short? What positive outcome is there for his parents to have to watch their son suffer and die?

Mother Teresa said, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” God, Jesus, blessed Mary – they’re all hurting watching Joey go through this. God loves us so much that it hurts. Joey’s parents love him so much that it hurts. So much so, that there can be no more hurt, “only more love.”

In the midst of this, at the bottom of the 9th inning, it’s hard to find comfort. I think all that we’re left with in our toolbox is faith. Faith that God knows what’s best for us. God has a plan for each of us. He has a plan for Joey, and he’s had one all along. For the people who know Joey, it is an honor and a privilege. To witness his parents’ love and strength is to see God at work right here on earth. To learn a lesson from all this, to find love in the hurt, is divine inspiration.

God, please be with Joey. Let his parents and sister and family feel your loving arms around them. Help bring some measure of comfort to all those that love him and have been offering you pleading prayers on Joey’s behalf for these last five years.

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About Kim, amateur wildlife enthusiast

I'm a wife, mother of two 'tweens (the eldest pictured with me above), freelance writer and editor, and amateur backyard wildlife enthusiast. When I'm not sitting in front of a laptop, I enjoy the outdoors, boating, gardening, traveling, playing the piano, watching my kids play lacrosse and spending time with extended family. After losing my mother in 2010 at age 64 to cancer, spending time with family has become even more important to me.

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