I said the other day that God cares by giving us strength when we need it. Sometimes, though, I wonder why he has to do things the hard way.
I’ve been dealing with a foot injury for three-and-a-half years now. Through most of that time, except for the weeks immediately following my three surgeries, the expectation has been that I’ve been somewhere in the range of three to eight weeks from a near-complete recovery. So in addition to a sore foot, I’ve been dealing with the slow and repeated death of hope through most of these many months.
There are other events causing our family grief these days. Still it’s small compared to my Facebook friend I mentioned a couple of blog posts ago, whose condition has not only been chronically painful but life-threatening. It’s not going away for him, either. Apparently–though I pray he changes his mind–he’s taking God’s silence as an indicator of God’s absence.
This weekend I realized I needed to give up hope in my foot recovering under the current treatment plan. It’s been six months since I’ve seen any definite improvement, and it’s time at last to quit thinking the next few months will be any different. There are other treatment options, I suppose, and I’ll be asking the doctor about that when I seem him in a few weeks. Until then, and maybe for some time after, I’ll be limping, I’ll be limited in mobility, and I’ll probably have more nights of losing sleep from the pain.
God hasn’t answered my prayers for healing. Is he then silent? Is he absent? Today in my Bible-in-a-year reading I read Isaiah 53, which virtually all Christian commentators understand to be a prophecy of Christ and his crucifixion. It says in verse 5, “By his stripes [his wounds] we are healed.” I’m not experiencing the physical healing I want. Does that mean it’s a sham, a vapor, a lie?
It might–except for this one great thing: Good Friday happened. Jesus did die on the cross. He was (from the beginning of that same verse) “wounded for our transgressions… bruised for our iniquities… the chastisement for our peace was upon him.” He died for me, to give me healing first of all from our spiritual sickness, our separation from God, and the eternal death to which that disease would inevitably lead.
Then the great thing was followed by a greater thing: Easter happened. He rose from the grave. He conquered spiritual death, then he overcame physical death. This happened. If it hadn’t, then I would have to give up all hope; but it did.
No illness, no setback, no pain, can erase the fact that Jesus proved himself victor over all illness, pain, and loss. No life event can eliminate that one central life-giving event. No death, even, can take away the fact of resurrection. Indeed, when does God do his greatest work? His greatest work of all is resurrection, which can only come after a death. This is both literally and metaphorically true; and for that reason, the moment when hope seems most unlikely is when God’s greatest work is most likely to shine through.
It may take more than a moment, to be sure. Jesus’ body lay in the ground long enough to dash everyone’s hopes in him, leaving despair in its place. But he rose!
God works on a resurrection principle. He brings light out of darkness, joy out of grief, healing out of pain, and life out of death. He proved he cares, and no matter what else, I have good reason to trust that he’s there. He isn’t silent. And he isn’t absent. Does God care? Yes, and he proved it.