But WHY?

Why do bad things happen? Why does God allow tragedy? Why doesn’t God stop disasters? Why doesn’t Jesus heal everybody? We have our “WHY GOD” questions and sadly some have them more often than others.
Recently while visiting the hospitality center (a place where our pre operation and post operation patients stay) I wondered what “Why God?” questions they would ask.

God why would you let me suffer for 17 years with a facial tumor that made it harder and harder for me to breath everyday?
God why would you let me fall into a fire when I was 3 and be left with permanent disfiguring scars?
God why would you let my newborn baby, have a hole in the roof of her mouth, making it almost impossible for her to eat?
God why would you let me give birth to 4 babies in which all four died and instead leave me with a fistula that makes me constantly leak urine?
God why would you let my baby be born blind unable to see me or grow up independently?

I tried to put myself in their flip flops but couldn't fathom what it would be like to have a 10 lb tumor hanging off the side of my face when in reality I freak out when I get 10 pimples. Instead I had to rely on the different experiences that I had personally gone through.
My big “WHY GOD” question was after my brother Billy died when he was 16. Billy and I were on our way to school when he lost control of his car and died. It was a really hard time for me, my family, and for anyone that knew Billy or our family. I blamed myself for a long time for Billy’s death. I remember pleading with God night after night that he would bring Billy back and take me instead. I remember crying wishing I could do that morning over again and change one thing, anything, that would have altered the tragedy that unfolded that day. I wanted the hurt to go away, I wanted the suffering to end, and I wanted things to go back to the way they were. When God didn’t answer my prayers or make the pain go away, I instead blamed Him. I was blinded by a thick blanket of grief. I thought I would never get out of that feeling. Now as I look back on this hard time I rejoice seeing how God truly used it and continues to use it for good.

What suffering have you gone through or are going through?
God why do you let a parent suffer through cancer only to leave behind young children, to be raised by a grieving parent?
God why do you let children get incurable cancers?
God why do you let a loving dad, have a heart attack leaving behind 3 teenage girls?
God why do you let children be born with chromosomal or genetic disorders?

Going through this tragedy, and all the suffering that came with it, God showed me his unconditional love and compassion for each one of us. This suffering produced an endurance to push me through all the hard times. This endurance helped build my character of an unshakable faith. And this character produces joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
I will never know what it is like to have a tumor on the side of my face. I will never know what it is like to leak urine for 10 years while grieving over the death of 4 out of 4 of mychildren. Yet even though I don’t know these situations specifically I do know what it is like to suffer.

Looking around at the patients and caregivers at the hospitality center each one has a "Why God?" question and a story of suffering. But I know that just as God used my suffering for good he will do the same for them because he loves and cares for each one.

John chapter 9 it talks about Jesus healing a blind man. Jesus was walking through a village and he saw a blind guy sitting on the side of the road. One of his disciples asked him, “Rabbi who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”…. Jesus then makes a mud and spit combo, then anoints the man's eyes with the mix, and then tells him to go and wash it off. So off he went and washed and came back seeing.

I am blessed by the lessons that God has taught me through Billy’s death but also the lessons he continues to teach me. Watching these patients go through these trials not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. Instead of me looking at them and asking WHY GOD I instead look at them with excitement wondering how God will be glorified through whatever suffering they are going through.
“That the works of God might be displayed in him… “ God uses these trials and tragedies so that his works can be shown through them. God is not a merciless God. He weeps with us, he sees every tear that falls. God knows our future and he allows us to go through sufferings because he knows our faith will grow. He also knows that this world is not all there is and that our hope is based on something much greater.

"So off he went and washed and came back seeing" The blind man had to go over and wash his eyes; he had to take action. After Billy died and for many years after, I was sitting on the side of the road, with mud over my eyes, unwilling to stand up and wash my eyes clean. I pray that whatever suffering you are going through or have gone through that you are holding on to the truth that Jesus loves you. If you are still in the thick blanket of grief, I pray that you will wash off the mud and see.

Later in John as the this newly seeing man was being questioned by those in authority about who gave him sight, the man simply answered, “Whether Jesus was a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know that once I was blind and now I see.” God will use these sufferings so that His good, loving, kind, merciful, gracious, and compassionate works, can be displayed.


Blinking billboard!!

Over these past few months in Togo I have noticed this ‘thing’ slowly slipping into my life. At first it was very subtle but now it has turned into a blinking billboard. This ‘thing’ I am talking about is……. pride. I know that pride is something that we all battle everyday normally but recently as I have become more comfortable with what God has called me to do the voltage of my pride was making my electric bill astronomical.
Going into this outreach, I was very uncomfortable as many new things were being asked of me. Since Mercy Ships has such a quick turn over of nurses, after only working on the wards for 4 months, I was considered a senior nurse. Also since I had been here longer I was also being asked to step in to different positions in the hospital. As I thought about these new positions part of me felt I should do it just because I was long term, but then as I prayed about it, I felt like God was saying, wait. (He says that a lot of me) I prayed asking God to help me see where he wanted me and how he wanted to use me. Not to long after this, my friend Suzanne, asked if I would be willing to help her with the Burkitt’s program since she knew I was an oncology pedi nurse. BING!! I quickly accepted and then started reading and researching everything I could get my hands on about Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Through this time of learning God showed me so much with helping me understand everything involved with treating a Burkitt’s patient but also he was softening my heart and showing me how with basic education and needs being met, peoples lives can be saved.

At this point God planted the ‘community health education (CHE) seed’ in my heart. As I started to look into CHE more I realized I knew nothing about it in regards to Africa. But as I prayed about this and read God’s word, I saw how we are called the share the gifts and wisdom that he has given us. So I took that leap into the unknown. It just so happen that my roommate at the time, Ellen, was going out to teach English and the alphabet at a local church so I asked if I could come along to teach basic healthcare. She quickly accepted.
Senior nurse, Burkitt’s program, African CHE… each one of these things made me extremely uncomfortable and showed me how weak and untrained I really was. I hadn’t felt that close to God in awhile as I went to Him with everything and relied on Him daily to be my strength and wisdom.
As the days and weeks passed and I became more comfortable with these things, that’s when the billboard started being built. I found myself talking a lot about what I was doing, what I wanted to do in the future, how I wanted it to happen, when I wanted it to happen, where I wanted it to happen; I think you get the point. I was still doing all the things I had been doing before, if not more. I was reading his word every day. I was spending specific time in prayer. I was helping out with the Burkitt’s program. I was teaching community health education on my days off. I was reaching out to make new friends and strengthen old relationships. But as all these plans were coming out of my mouth the closeness that I had felt with my Dad, was no longer there.
I knew what I needed to do but I kept putting it off. Finally I decided to pray and search my heart for an answer to this distance. It didn’t take me to long to see the huge blinking PRIDE sign sitting in front of me.
Romans 1:21-23~ For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…
I was acting like a selfish Pharisee, going through all the right motions but for my glory and not to the one it was due. This seed that God had planted, this desires that God placed in my heart, I had foolishly and selfishly stolen as my own. No longer did I consider these gifts that God had entrusted me with but instead I thought of them as something that I had created.
Doh! I knew I needed to unplug my blinking billboard. So over to the socket I went and pulled the plug. But here in lies the next problem and the continued personal struggle not to turn the billboard back on. The plug and socket are still in the room, tempting me to turn it back on but instead I need to keep my focus and reliance on God and know that He wont let me be tempted beyond my ability.
Ephesians 2:10~ For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. How can I boast in something that isn’t my own? The gifts and wisdom that I have are not mine at all. These are from God. EVERY good and perfect thing is from above (James 1:17)
So what now? Matthew 5:16~ In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. God has shown me that I can keep doing all the things I have been doing but to remember to give the glory to the one it is due.
I thank you God for the opportunity to serve you in this way. God I thank you for the doors you have opened and the amazing people you have placed in my life. God I thank you for showing me more about who you are and the love you have for all of your children. Father I don’t know what your plans are for me but I place my life in your hands.