(Grace and Luke having a hospital visit snack. Not really related to the post topic but I thought I'd share all the same.)
Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.
Moore points out that no one in the crowd asked for a miracle, but that this miracle is completely driven by Jesus' compassion alone. He went to touch the coffin (a massive Jewish taboo) and brought the boy back to life with one word. She writes that, "Jesus ran into a woman (the mom) in hopeless despair and just reacted with what came most naturally to him-- healing mercy...I believe we have a small glimpse into what Christ would do in every one of our despairing situations if a greater plan was not at stake..."
The next chapter deals with John the Baptist's questioning if Jesus was the Messiah. Moore writes that John did know that Jesus was the Messiah, he had just baptized Jesus and saw heaven open on Him a few months before. She points out that John sent his followers to question Jesus while John was on death row in jail. Jesus replied,
“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”
Moore writes, "John had heard the wonders Christ had done for others. I think maybe his faith was shaken because he could have used a wonder for himself, and he didn't appear to be getting it. John knew with his head that Jesus was the Messiah. Sitting in that prison cell, I think he was having a little trouble knowing it in his heart." Jesus didn't rescue John. His was the one request in the Gospels for a miracle that Jesus denies.
As a kid I was afraid of "God" of the old testament who punished and judged and asked Abraham to sacrifice his son on an alter. When I was in college I fell in love with Jesus. The Jesus who touched the dirty and poor and surrounded himself with kids, who bought my forgiveness at a great personal price and showed me the compassionate and gentle side of God. And Jesus is God.
Years ago I had been taught that God always wants our good, our success and our prosperity and if we lack those things in our lives it is because we lack faith, not because God allows pain. I know God doesn't cause evil, I know that He is the definition of good, of beautiful even. But He clearly allows disease, pain and death. I know He allows it because Grace is still sick. God has the capacity to overturn evil at every opportunity and chooses not to...though sometimes He does and one day will permanently.
I wrestled with what I had read the whole long drive home from the hospital last night. How can the God who allows suffering in His divine plan be the same God who suffers immensely when He sees His humans suffering? But Biblically it adds up. The Prophets whom God esteemed are thought to have all been martyred. Many of the early Christian converts were killed brutally. Paul and Peter and James were all executed. And conversely we see that Jesus, being the exact likeness of the Father, weeps and reaches out to comfort those in mourning.
Grace having Leukemia allowed God to reintroduce himself to me. Last night in the car He risked showing me that He is both. He is both the God who is not afraid to use our suffering to bring about a bigger plan of good, as well as the God who is moved with a compassion so deep in his soul that He enters into our pain, even taking it onto himself as his own burden.
The reason it was a risky move for God to reveal this to me is that it puts Grace on the line. It means that if I continue to follow Him, I will have to trust Him to choose what is right for Grace. Not me. I will have to trust that He is good because of who He is, not just for what He does for me. It's the scariest faith, and I was terrified.
But where else could I go? He alone has the words of life. And all that is good in my life, all that is beautiful, all that is solid and real and true...all those things exist in my life because of Jesus. Even that my kids exist, it's because of Jesus. He has shown Himself good to me so many times before.
So I'm still in. I told Him so last night. And suddenly I could pray for Grace again, in the way I've been wanting to. Somehow the dam broke and I can pray, probably because I now have a better idea who I am praying to, and knowing better what to pray for. I can pray for God to be involved without holding back in fear that He won't answer my prayer. I can pray for her with all my heart, trusting that God is both compassionate and who is writing a story that will make Grace's life and death something eternally worthwhile.
I feel I know Jesus better today, I know more who He really is. And that is a treasure, costly bought.