Consider this scenario:
God says to you, “My child, I don’t usually do this, but I want to tell you what is going to happen to you over the next two years. You are going to get cancer and will need home care from https://homecareassistance.com/west-chester/. It’s going to be bad and it’s going to be untreatable. I could prevent it and I could cure it, and that would give you many more years with your spouse and your young son, but I am not going to do that. Your family and friends will be praying for a miracle and I will hear their prayers and I will comfort them and you in your pain and grief and loss, but in your situation, I will not grant their request for healing. I have other plans for you.
See, I have used the last two decades of your life since you accepted the gospel and my Spirit has been at work in you, to strengthen your faith and forge your character for such a time as this. I will allow this suffering in your life because, and only because, I know that it will not shipwreck your faith. Many other Christians I protect from going through such an ordeal because I know it would completely crush them. It would not bring them closer to me. But in your case, you will come through and finish the race with your trust in me deepened and your knowledge of my love grown. You will have very dark times of doubt and you will cry out to me in frustration and confusion and wonder where I am in the midst of your suffering, but I will always be there and you will discover me in the darkest of pits.
My ultimate concern is not that you have a long life (at least not in this creation), my ultimate concern is not that you see your son grow up or that you achieve your career potential. My concern isn’t even primarily that you have a happy and pain-free life. All those joys will be for you complete in the new creation. For this life, my ultimate concern is that you know me, and that others know me through you.
This is actually why you will get cancer. Your life, though it will only be for another couple of years, will be a testimony of how a Christian faces suffering. Many will see how you prayed and prayed and came to me and relied on me for comfort and joy and strength and hope. This ordeal will show many how precious I am to you, and how when much of the pleasures of this world is taken away, you still have me and you are still satisfied. That will glorify me so much and encourage so many fellow-believers to continue in their walk with me.
But more than all that, the most profound way that your testimony will be used will be something you will never see in this life. It will be for the sake of your grandchild who you will never meet until the new creation.
Her name will be Talibah. She will be your son’s third child. She will run away from me most of her life and after her second miscarriage she will deny that she even believes I exist, though I will still be seeking her and drawing her to me. When I chose a human soul that I wish to bring into the family of salvation, there is no use in running away from me. The story of Jonah should teach her that, especially after your son will spend so many of her childhood years reading her that and many other Bible stories. But it won’t be the story of Jonah that I will use to reveal myself to her… it will be your story.
At the age of 54, I will bring across her path a record that your sister will write of your last couple of years. Talibah will read of your faithfulness to me through your battle with cancer, of the way you found your joy in me and how I strengthened and comforted you. She will read of how you spoke of your relationship with me as the most valuable thing in your life and how you would not be able to have faced such a battle, without me in your life. She will read your story and I will speak to her through it. I will use your testimony to awaken her soul to the reality of my love for her and to woo her to consider the gospel anew. A year later, she will ask a Christian lady who I will place in the house next door to her, to explain to her how she can be saved and that faithful neighbour, who has never done anything more than make it known that she was a child of mine and show Talibah hospitality, will lead her to put her trust in my sacrifice for her sins.
I will use your story as the catalyst for her coming into the kingdom and in the new creation, you will meet her and she will give you the greatest hug as she thanks you for your story.
This is my plan for your life. My question is, are you willing to accept cancer, knowing that this is how I plan to use it?”
Every Christian I have shared this scenario with, has enthusiastically said that they would be willing to take cancer and have their life be shortened, if it meant their grandchild would meet Jesus through it.
Of course, this is just a theoretical, and who really knows how they will respond to the news of cancer (or any other type of suffering like a separation and divorce in my case)? But I still think, their response is a testimony of how much the Christians that I know cherish their relationship with Jesus and how much they value someone else finding salvation over their own physical comfort, happiness or even physical life.
The reality is though, we do not ever get this in-depth explanation from God. We sometimes see the fruit that our suffering bears and how God uses it for his glory and other people’s good, but often we don’t. Who knows if God’s plans span decades or even hundreds or thousands of years? The stories of Christians over the centuries who have been martyred or have faithfully faced suffering, have inspired many people to consider the gospel.
The reality is: God is good and God is in control.
Those two concepts sometimes feel at odds as we can’t always see the “good” that God will bring out of something and when it just seems bad, we have trouble thinking that God is “in control”.
But those two concepts stand as true and I encourage you to grapple with them, to questions them and to reflect on them… but ultimately, to trust them.
I do wish that God would explain every thing he is doing through every experience of suffering that I see and experience. But in the end, I will trust him and keep seeking him in all circumstances.
I hope and trust by God’s strength, that my story will be one of enduring faithfulness, whether I will see all the good fruit of that story in this life, or the next.
“When they sit around the campfires of the Kingdom, and they tell your story, what will they say?” – John Eldredge
“I thought my life was going to be like ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and it ended up being more like ‘Lord of the Rings’! But in the end, which is a better movie?” – Simon Camilleri (something I said during the years leading up to my divorce)
“For even the very wise can not see all ends.” – Gandalf (from Lord of the Rings)