|WHERE IS GOD WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN?|
In fact, perhaps the “bad things”, while truly and deeply painful and sometimes sourced by an evil, don’t end up so “bad” as we originally experienced, if they teach us that simple but profound and eternal truth in a fresh, living way.
These are weighty words to write. I’ve encountered a fair share of suffering, but I recognize there are faces of pain and threats of fear that I’ve never felt and never desire anyone would.
Because our one God is so vast and transcendent, we could never comprehend Him through a single name (or many names, for that matter). The Scriptures give us numerous names for our God, that each describe a different immutable trait of His, and help us to understand how we are created to relate to Him.
If you’ve ever been truly desperate in a high-risk situation, where the outcomes are critical, then you experienced the arrival of perfectly-timed and perfectly-sufficient help, whether you’d cried out for it yet or not, you recognize the powerful revelation of Elohe Tishuathi: the God of my Salvation.
You’ve encountered Ehyeh asher Ehyeh: the Eternal, All-Sufficient God.
I want to paint you a selection of small portraits: the stories I was introduced to day after day in the EFH in Freeport. It is a different thing to practice fast-paced medicine with total freedom and appointing to address to the spiritual needs your patient presents. To have colleagues that will step in and step up in order to accommodate a conversation that is sovereignly ordained for such a time as this. There were days that I felt futile, where it seemed like all I treated were minor chronic issues that seemed to be keeping me from my children and my responsibilities back home. Then would come these encounters of profound significance and I was reminded that I was sent here on such purpose, and there were things God wanted to say through my mouth, my testimony. He also wanted to tell you about these people, these children of His who are your brothers and sisters, who have a song to sing above the noise of the storm, and the dead-silent absence of so much in its wake. Here we find Immanuel: God with us.
He was a healthy-appearing 44 year old with a spirit of contentment, patience, and gratitude. He presented with an abdominal mass he’d never noticed until he’d lost 40 pounds finally came to the doctor. He endured eight hours of trying to coordinate a CT scan to evaluate what had been growing inside him, just behind his skin, just out of sight. From what we had, it appeared to be multiple myeloma that was so advanced he has little hope of recovery. Blindsided, transferred to Nassau for best chances, he was exceedingly grateful for help. That God had His eye on him and would sent him answers and assistance as he prepared for a yet more difficult storm. He thanked El Roi: the God who Sees.
One mature, praying woman poured out her heart to me as I tended her in the tent hospital. “Our God is a jealous God. He wants the hearts of His people. He has washed away our idols. He wants the hearts of His people.” She had heard from El Kanna: the Jealous God, who desires His people worship the one who gives them life, not slowly steals it away.
A beautiful young woman dressed to reflect her perspective of herself, eyes full of shame that couldn’t meet mine without a prompt, asked for an STD check. Told she was worthless, she had nowhere else to find hope. After a quick pelvic exam, behind the makeshift privacy screens constructed of tarp and PVC piping, she confessed with her hand laid over her heart that she believed this Jesus really did love her, honor her, wish to redeem her even from here. She confessed she needed Him, and she wanted Him. She was born of the Spirit in that moment. The curse broken over her sweet soul. And grace poured out from Jehovah Moshiekh: the LORD Your Savior.
I asked one elderly woman, “Do you have everything you need: food, clean water?” “Why, of course!” she almost giggled. “My husband and I aren’t very strong but we are caring for our entire neighborhood. Every house was flooded except ours. We don’t live on a hill, so I don’t know why, but God spared us. The water stopped at the front yard. My daughter in the States sent us supplies, and we are giving them out to our neighbors. A few people who lost their homes have been staying with us; they just sleep in the living room. Yes, dear, we have everything we need.” She worshipped Elohim Machase Lanu: God our Refuge and she gave away what was being supplied to her, trusting her Jehovah Jireh: the LORD who provides.
A pastor recalled the flood to our distribution leaders, out searching for people in need of supplies. “The flood came quickly. My son slept on the second flood, and I slept on the third floor. He ran up to me when the waters entered his bedroom. Soon they had filled the third floor also. The roof caved in on us, and I was trapped under a beam while the water tore him out of my arms and I watched him be swept away, crying out for me. For two days I was under the beam until they rescued me. Then I found they had rescued my son from the top of a tree where he was able to grab on. We are alive.” He is Elohim Chayim: the Living God. He is Jehovah Mephalti: the LORD my Deliverer.
She had waited until the last minute, then knew she had to pick up her children and run for high ground. They did, and the house was erased down to the posts. She praised God she had followed Jehovah Roi: the LORD my Shepherd.
A schizophrenic man who received little respect or autonomous voice had an urgent ophthamologic need to save his one functional eye, and was brought in by his sister who’d come to check on him. We had a select few specialists available, but one happened to be an ophthamologist, who was willing to promptly respond to our call for consult. He performed minor eye surgery on him in our ICU area, after I repeated everything to my patient for his consent, refusing to regard him in the third person as we discussed his care in front of him. The urgent care nurses poured themselves out during a very busy shift, so that one of them was at our patient’s side for the entire procedure, treating him with utmost dignity and compassion. The clear statement was made in Jesus’ Name: He is Jehovah Ezer: the LORD my Helper, who had personally arranged for immediate care by the exact specialist he needed, precisely in the absence of most specialized care.
The stories don’t always end in easily-recognized “success”. The three year old boy had a complicated medical history, unbeknownst to us on arrival. He seemed so stable but renewed our attention with a severely abnormal chest x-ray. Suddenly he deteriorated. It was so fast. His grandmother wailed on her knees and begged God to take her instead. God had already taken the boy’s mother Home, and she was raising him now. We worked for an hour and did everything that modern medicine can. We wept with all who loved the child as we wrapped his body and let them hold him one last time. It was our second pediatric code of the afternoon. But here we clung to our Elohei Mikkarov: God Who is Near. We all together put our hope in El Shaddai: the Almighty God, whose breath of Life cannot be quenched by a shadow of death for those whose hope is in Him.
The young mother came to me, 20 weeks pregnant, bleeding and hoping she was not about to lose her child to an incompetent cervix, again. The local obstetrician was called in. The report followed the exam: it was too late. She was partially dilated and the amniotic sac was protruding. They may as well induce her to “finish the job.” We admitted her on bedrest and we prayed. The next morning the processes had reversed. They were able to place a cervical cerclage successfully. The baby was still alive and growing in a newly-secured womb. Please continue to intercede for this little one and his mother. Cry out with us to Elohim Chaseddi: the God of My Mercy.
One sister was eighty years old and two weeks late to have the sutures removed from her face. They told the story of her drunken fall when she was trying, as she did every night, to chase away the loneliness and anxiety with liquor. She was too embarassed to look up at me, and too anxious to sit still on the little cot. Elohei Chasdi: God of my kindness, goodness and faithfulness, called out to her and invited her back. Reminded her that she is never alone. He is her husband, His family is hers. He has good work for her to do. She wept and shared how she used to be a Sunday School teacher, and she just wants to go back. He is the One she is most lonely for. She repented on that little cot and lifted her face, full of joy, mind set to find a church where she can serve food to the people who need more help. She walked out hand-in-hand with Jehovah Mekaddishkem: the LORD that Sanctifies You.
They ask, “So you’re all from South Carolina?” “No,” I answer, “I only knew about three of these people before I got here last week.” The testimony of the Body of Christ from all across the States, indeed, across the oceans, united to serve their people in a time of need has them astounded. “We’re all here because of Jesus.” “God has sent you to us,” our patients exclaim in thanks. Yes. And only by Him would we go. He reveals Himself ‘Or Goyim: Light of the Nations.
Twenty-seven, and utterly downcast, she spoke to me in a whisper. She had bought abortion pills from some lady off the street. She’s been bleeding for two weeks but is still feeling pregnant. She submits to an ultrasound that reveals a living baby, 11 weeks and 2 days, stretching her womb and her asking for her heart. She is distraught. She already has three little mouths to feed. One son has a brain tumor and she can’t keep up with the doctor visits. They’ve just lost everything to a flood and are staying with her mother. Her great shame is that the father is the same-old man who abandons her while she carries his children. But she carries God’s children who mean more than their neglectful father suggests. Each one bears a message of hope and future. They’ve all had her heart and her mother’s love contorts her face as her circumstance tries to wrestle her child right out of her. She asks me to prescribe another abortifacent. I tell her that right now I’m caring for two patients, and cannot do for one what will kill the other. It resonates in her gentle but desperate soul. She listens to the story of an unplanned, un-asked-for pregnancy that introduced the sweetest blessing a family could hope for. She is deeply encouraged to hear of one whose high-needs child has brought overcoming strength through weakness, because GOD cares for His children. She walked out with her head up, courage on her tear-streaked face, and His liberating permission to love her child. She had turned her ear toward Peleh Yo’etz: the Wonderful Counselor. She honored El Hayyay: the God of My Life. She was invited to call upon Elohei Ma’uzzi: God of my Strength. I was so encouraged to see her a week later, while she was bringing her son for evaluation, and see her smile in eagerness for her prenatal appointment.
A middle-aged, eastern European lawyer traveling from his home in the UK arrived in Freeport to check on his business in Grand Bahama. He was feeling poorly, called his wife (who was in France) and told her what was going on. Concerned for his heart, she google-searched hospitals in Freeport and urged him to come to Samaritan’s Purse. His disconnected story and anxiety didn’t communicate much clinical urgency, but his rapid, irregular pulse did. His arrhythmia became potentially fatal that night, and his cardiac function was minimal. Some quick work by the DART cardiologist God had sent to meet him right there saved his life, and his response to the good news that Jesus wants to give him more than just physical healing saved his soul. Jehovah Rophe: the LORD my Healer, had pursued him across the globe in the context of a hurricane that destroyed his business, in order to heal him forever.
I asked one woman who’d endured the hurricane huddled in her home how she’d managed. “Oh, I had the rainbow,” she answered immediately and confidently. “What?” I inquired. “The day before the storm came, there was a big, beautiful rainbow spread across the sky.” “I saw it, too,” a woman next to her exclaimed. “I saw it, too!” echoed a third woman down the row. She declared, “All through that storm I held onto that rainbow and I knew that my GOD would never leave me. I still have that rainbow.” She is forever anchored in El Emunah: the Faithful God.
We (any and all of us, the Body of Christ) go because He is there. We leaned hard on Jehovah Shalom: the LORD our Peace. We held tightly to Jehovah Immeka: the LORD is with You. We clung to Him for ourselves, for our families, and most of all for the beloved ones He sent us to serve in His name. Our God does not hold back when it comes time to save. Romans 8:32 calls us to attention: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” This reaches beyond material and systematic relief that any reputable NGO can provide. When it’s time to move, He gives Himself to the people He loves. So we, His Body, joyfully identify as one of His most valuable resources. And following Jesus’s perspective, we are to be spent with an eye toward a more abundant life than we could ever experience by holding onto ourselves. He gave up His very own body once, and He will continue to extend it because He is Jehovah Moshiekh: the LORD who Saves.
|Thank you for sending us. We could go without you.|