Today's post shifts to another Philip Yancey classic: Disappointment With God. This tome was a handy burden-bearer when Joshua was in Miami for a lengthy hospitalization following his spinal fusion surgery in 2007, and I felt that Yancey penned a mother lode of amazing questions and entreaties that were swirling around in my head but which I'd never been able to organize into coherent speech.
I should first say that our family has lived on both sides of the tragedy divide. Obviously, this month reminds us of Jordan's passing into glory five years back. For whatever reason, God took him. But it is also the six-month anniversary of when Joshua finally came home from the hospital to stay, when he defied doctor's expectations and began to eat by mouth again. All this began with a July journey that saw Joshua go into post-surgical septic shock and nearly die. For whatever reason, God spared him.
It seems arbitrary, I know, from our limited human perspective, why one son survives and one dies. If God can heal and extend life, why doesn't he do that all the time? I have no answer for that question other than we have faced that mystery personally. But Yancey points out another drama in which that reality comes home.
Disappointment With God deals with three primary questions: Is God silent? Is God hidden? Is God unfair? Yancey rightly says that the "problem of unfairness bothers many people who are otherwise attracted to Jesus' life. The great theologian Augustine, for example, puzzled over the arbitrariness of the healings in the Gospels. If Jesus had power, why didn't he heal everyone?"
Yancey mentions that Augustine was particularly vexed by the story of the crippled man in John 5. The location was a pool in Jerusalem where the disabled would congregate which was "the Lourdes shrine of its day. Sometimes the water in the pool would ripple, and they would run, limp, or crawl to enter the water while it was astir." Anyhow, Jesus arrives one day to encounter a man who'd be crippled for thirty-eight years but, he told Jesus, he could never win beat-the-clock with anyone else to get in the presumably angel-stirred waters.
So Jesus says to get up and walk, and--boom!--it happened. Twoscore minus two years of lying flat, and he's gliding around Jerusalem like Fred Astaire.
And then Yancey hits the proper nerve: "But the storyteller, John, adds one significant detail: Jesus then slipped away, into the crowd. He ignored the rest of that great throng of disabled people, leaving all but the one unhealed. Why? Augustine wondered, 'There lay so many there, and yet only one was healed, whilst He could by a word have raised them all up'."
I don't know the answer to that hidden question. All I know is that we've lived on both sides of that equation. Joshua survives, Jordan didn't. And yet I go on, for whatever reason, trusting in Someone who cautions me to recall that his kingdom is not of this world. It's not a jigsaw puzzle that fits cleanly together; it's not an auto manual that directs you how to tweak life so it hums along neatly.
I wish I had an answer for that question. I wish there was healing for all the boys with myotubular myopathy and all the kids with centronuclear myopathy. We live in the tenuous already-but-not-yet of progress toward a cure in a race against time.
It means I live in the paradox between a kingdom in which there is suffering and a King who says that pain--redemptive though it can be--is an unnatural invasion into his preferred design. It means I like in the paradox between a kingdom that baffles me because it is thorny and a King who says, with tears, "Trust me" and earns it by bearing thorns.
It's where I live, for better or for worse. Trust me, I have plenty of questions. But I also know clearly why I have questions. And for now, that is good enough.