Sunday, July 12, 2015

Thoughts on Bailey's death

I am struggling with Bailey's death but for the first time my faith isn't shaken to the core and unlike before I am not spiritually devastated that God has said no to our prayers for a miracle. Maybe it's because I felt in my heart that God was preparing me that he was going to be taking her home. Maybe it's because she was in so much pain that death was actually relief rather than a curse. Maybe it's because I believe in heaven more than I used to. Maybe it's because I believe in Jesus more than I used to.

And though I am less spiritually devastated, my heart is very, very, very heavy. The pain for me is still very real. 

But I know for many people, especially those who are not Christians or who are new believers, Baileys death is an obstacle to trusting God. I think people want to know how they are supposed to trust a "loving" God if he allows precious, vulnerable, and pure babies to die.

I am not a theologian, pastor or pillar of faith. But especially tonight while I sit next to Grace as she sleeps in her hospital bed, I can say that I've learned a few things through our journey with cancer. Many of my happy-feelings-only-faith has been burned away in a crucible of hardship and the truth of who God really is remains. The thing I've learned the most is that Jesus can be trusted, and that he is faithful in his love for us, even when pain and death are part of our lives.

When we suffer Christians often turn to Genesis in the Bible because it explains that we live in a broken world. The Bible says that Adam and Eve opened Pandora's box and sin entered the world like a disease that will only be cured when we reach heaven. It's true.

It's also true that mankind has been very unfaithful, very unwise, and even blatantly cruel to the Earth that God entrusted us with to care for. The principles in the Bible are against things like farmers reusing fracking water for growing food, because the Bible promotes seeking wisdom over profit. GMO crops continue to be sold unlabeled though the Bible commands that we "shall not lie," and world leaders allow people to starve though the Bible says we should "do unto others as we do unto ourselves." The results of rejecting God's help is cancerous to our land, our bodies and our souls.

But most of us don't like being told what to do and for the most part we see God's Bible as being harsh, cruel, outdated and often confusing. Yet the medicine inside that book would heal our hearts, our families, our society, and our land. In in return we would live in the constant blessings that come as a result of following God's ways. I don't personally believe God is "cursing us" as a punishment for sin, I just believe that we reap the compounded-deeply-connected-domino-effect-results of rejecting his help. Still when our world falls apart we shake our fists at God.

We continue to blame God for things like cancer, preventable disease, starvation. Many of these things are the result of living in a world broken by the original sins of Adam and Eve but we have also created our own toxic, warring, selfish world. Let's stop blaming God for the part that we as humans can own up to. 

But then the question still remains, even if we deserve the consequences of our mistakes, and if God loves us, shouldn't he help us? Can't he heal us? Does he care? There are a few answers to that. 

My previous teaching from Christians has been that "by Jesus' stripes (his crucifixion and resurrection) we are healed." That verse is often used out of context by Christians who use it to justify their belief that God will always answer prayer with miracles. But the verse is actually talking about our sinful hearts being healed because Jesus' death on the cross paid our spiritual debts. Many Christians pray for miracles, believe for miracles, and are spiritually devastated when God doesn't answer with miracles. For many Christians their reality is a contradiction to what they believe the Bible says.

In the Bible Jesus heals. A lot. A lot of people in outrageous ways from horrific diseases and conditions. And from what I hear he's still doing a lot of miracles in other countries. Good sources have well documented and medically verified miracles all over the world. But not so much in America. I think it's because we think with our hearts and emotions but we don't trust "stories" or even our eyes. We have too much CGI and the few miracles I've witnessed are brushed off by skeptics. But what we do see in America today is God allowing himself to be felt by people. His undeniable, can't-explain-it-away, in-his-presence-felt. And because of it lives are changed and people are reconciled with God. But to many that doesn't qualify as a miracle. They want something tangible.

Which brings me to another thought. Jesus knows heaven. To us it's a concept, but to Jesus it is tangible. He knows that this world is like a dream that you hardly remember when fully awake. Heaven is the real, this life is the dream- just not to us still on earth.

So I think we're really offended when Jesus takes people away from this earth into heaven, especially when he takes precious babies like Bailey from their families. The separation is devastating to us. It is to him too. It seems to us that Jesus  is not answering our prayers but to him, he is bringing them to the real miracle. The real miracle is a forever home where pain, separation, and death are conquered and where his love for us is made completely known. Heaven is the miracle. 

But the problem continues that heaven is conceptually unsafe for us to believe in because God himself seems distant, untrustworthy and unsafe to those who have not personally met him. If we don't know the father, then why would we care about being in his home? If we can't experience God in this life than how do we know heaven isn't just wishful thinking? The only answer is to meet him. To know him. To start to trust him. Only then we can feel like death has "lost it's sting" and that heaven it is our true home. 

I have had several friends who were interested in Jesus. They had done some research, felt like there was some hope that Jesus might be the real deal, but they still couldn't entrust their whole lives to him.  I don't think anyone can come to trust God on their own, not really, unless God shows up to help. 

I told my friends that coming to trust Jesus is a lot like learning to swim. You can read about a how to swim, you can watch videos, you can splash in the water. But until you really get in the water you won't ever learn to really swim. A life with Jesus is like that. You can't know him from a distance, you have to get in the water- and more than your toes. I encouraged my friends to jump in and try him out. If he's a fraud then just walk away. There isn't much to lose except maybe getting a little wet. But if he is God...then he'll teach you how to swim for real. I just wanted to throw that out there for anyone who has been searching but afraid to start. My advice- just do it. Give God the opportunity to prove himself to you. Not to be your magic miracle genie, but to be a trustworthy friend, a loving father, a healer of your soul.

Jesus' main purpose for coming to earth was to be one with us in suffering so that we wouldn't be alone. He came to pay our debts so that all the mistakes in our world would no longer separate us from the fullness of God's love. Being surrounded today by children suffering from cancer I can say, that at least for us, that God's peace has comforted us in our grief, his presence has overcome our fear, his love has been sufficient to sustain us in a very hard, cold world. He is who he says he is.

So even though my heart is broken about Bailey, I do not despair. God wasn't cruel to her. He hated her cancer more than any of us ever did. He has grieved her death more than any of us ever will. But he has not abandoned her. She has beat us all to the prize. 

And through my tears it's this truth that gives me peace. I'll be smiling with you again soon Bailey-boo.

1 comment:

  1. Checking back in as I do periodically. I wanted to know how Grace Ellen and all of you are doing. I'm so sorry about the grief your friend Bailey's death caused but it looks as though you are becoming very wise in the ways of life and, although I do not currently have cancer (2013 breast cancer) or know any children or anyone else who has cancer, I appreciate reading your thoughts about God and about life. Good for you! Be back again in a month or so. Always wishing you the best! Your friend in Boulder, Colorado - Dhyan