About Living

There's this little boy who attended our church with his family that developed cancer about six years ago. Benjamin's family doesn't come to Christ's Church anymore but his grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins do, so we still have some connections to him. A few weeks ago, he was put back in the hospital again. So last Friday, the day of the week I do hospital calls, I went Childrens Hospital to see him and he was in horrible shape. He was in a forced coma because he was working against the breathing machine they had him hooked up to. The poor little thing looked horrible. It didn't strike me until I was in his room that I remembered the last time I was in that wing of the hospital.

When Kelly and I were just married, there was a little girl from her home church in Lexington that was fighting leukemia. They brought her up here to Childrens and, because they really didn't know anyone in the city, we decided to check in with her once a week. Krystal Lafoon was eight years old and as precocious as they come. She had this rich southern accent and the accompanying Dixie attitude. We would play games with her. Kelly would help her color or do crafts. I'd tell her jokes and she'd give me a sarcastic glare that said, "You're not as funny as you think you are." It was a great way for us to start the first months of marriage and full-time ministry. Krystal was good for us. Fortunately she got well enough that they sent her home, but it wasn't more than a few months later that she was right back up here at Childrens. I remember when I went to see her that last time. Kel was at work and I went by myself. Krystal looked horrible. There were more tubes sticking out of her than I've ever seen; she was exhausted. I tried making her laugh again but she didn't even have the strength to glare at me. I knew it wouldn't last much longer. Krystal died within a couple of weeks.

It was so tough to deal with God during that time. In seminary, I had been taught all the "Bible answers" and the appropriate things to say and feel in situations like that. I was told not to be angry with God because it wasn't His fault, but the real culprit was sin. God made the world perfect, but when man sinned it brought death into the world. The rest of us, throughout the history of the world, have had to deal with the problem ever since. It might have been theologically correct, but it all seemed like crap. Where is God when little children who've never harmed a soul are forced to suffer such pain? Why isn't He protecting the innocent? In the past eight or so years of being in the ministry, it hasn't gotten easier. But I've taken a healthier approach of how to deal with God during times like these.

I get angry at Him.

Sounds a bit blasphemous, doesn't it? But I promise it isn't. Anger isn't necessarily sin. It can turn into sin, but it doesn't have to. Psalm 4:4 says, "In your anger, do not sin." When someone offends me, even if their offense wasn't a sin, I get angry. In instances like a child dying, I can feel offended by God and angry but not be sinful.

And you can be angry with God and not be in danger of being snuffed out. Life's not fair. He knows that. We all don't get the opportunity to live the happy, perfectly fulfilled lives that we long for ourselves and our loved ones. We need to feel the freedom to wrestle with God about the way He works and moves in the world. If He angers you, let Him know. Fearlessly. He created the world, so He has pretty broad shoulders. God can handle all our questions and frustrations.

But while you're experimenting in this new found freedom, don't go off the deep end. There are too many times that we don't acknowledge God for the many blessings he sends our way. Life itself is a wonderful gift and, despite all the junk we have to put up with, is probably a lot better than we realize. Go watch Hotel Rwanda and then complain about how horrible your life is. So anger is just one emotion that we should emit before the Lord. You have a whole palate of emotions with which to present to God.

A couple I went to college with lost a child in pregnancy last year. In a blog entry reflecting on the experience, he recited the following song lyrics, which resonated with me as well:

"You give and take away.
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say,
'Lord, blessed be your name.'"

There's the point. God is still in control and has a purpose in all He is doing. We need to return to Him, after times of anger and frustration, and acknowledge Him as the giver of life. No one's saying it's easy, but we have to trust the God knows what He's doing.

Let me wrap all this us with Benjamin and Krystal.

When we came to CCM we got to know Mark Mueller, one of our church's elders. He's the patient/family liaison down at the cancer/leukemia ward at Childrens Hospital. Through conversations about his job, we found out that he actually worked with Krystal and her family. It was wonderful to tell our stories of her and have someone else remember what a special little girl she was. Even though it was a short lived life, filled with pain and struggle, she was always happy. She was indeed a special little girl, and everyone who knew her could testify to it.

During this latest struggle with his disease, Benjamin's mother was pregnant. His mom gave birth to a little girl on Tuesday afternoon. Afterward they told Benjamin's mom that her son had taken a turn for the worst. They had to ambulance her over to Childrens, and she got to see Benjamin one last time. He passed away four hours after his mother had given birth- yes, he died the same day his little sister was born.

And they named her, "Faith."