The whole day that Mom lay in that hospital bed we fully expected she would be healed. We waited in anticipation for her to open her eyes – we saw it happening at any moment.
We waited, imagining the stories we would tell about her healing. We waited, expecting to make glorious phone calls back to family saying it was okay, God had come through, all was right in the world, she had been healed.
We watched her closed eyes waiting for them to flutter. We squeezed her hands waiting for her to squeeze back.
And sometimes I wonder where I would be three years later if she had been healed. Surely that first year everyone would have talked about it. She probably would have been booked at some conferences and church services to preach about healing. People would have asked her to pray for their own healing. At the end of THAT day, everyone would have sighed relief. See? They would have said. Nothing to worry about. God pulled through. (And somewhere, someone would have watched the whole thing wondering why their person hadn’t been healed.)
I wonder if, after three years, the story would have gotten old. We probably would have moved on. It would have been a great family story, and I expect we would have been brought closer by the experience, but eventually everything would have gone back to normal, and probably once in a while I would have thought, “Phew. Glad that all worked out.”
Instead, I have struggled with my faith. I have struggled to figure out what I really believe about healing, or faith, or whether God really cares what hurts us. I have cried countless tears, I have yelled at God, and I have given up more than once. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked God why. I have remembered He loved me and rolled my eyes and thought yeah, sure. Thanks a lot.
I have preached sermons on finding peace and worshiping and struggling and instead of imagining what that must be like, I have been able to bring broken pieces of myself to share with others. I have been able to listen to people that have walked through excruciating pain and say, “Me too.” I have been able to listen to people struggling with what to believe and say, “Me too.”
I have led worship and have sung and said, “He is always good. He is always faithful.” And I have said it from a heart that believes it truly, tested by fire.
I have become a person without answers. I have moved into a space where I admit I am too small to understand His plan. I have become a person forced to understand that much of the comfortable theology I grew up with melts in the face of tragedy. Although I didn’t want to, I became a person that understands the tip of the iceberg – that when you say you lost someone, what you actually mean is that you saw things you never wanted to see, you felt pain so immense it was indescribable, you asked questions about God you never thought anyone should ask.
If she’d been healed, we would have had a great story. A great testimony. But the thing is, sometimes the testimony isn’t that God gave you what you wanted – it’s that He made you into the person you couldn’t become without the tragedy. We want to be spared pain, but without pain there is no growth. Without having our foundations shaken, we remain the same. It is a gift to be brought into a place of shaken faith, of questioning, of doubt. It is a gift to have to say with tear-stained cheeks, “Prove yourself again. Prove yourself again.” Because, through His mercy, He does.
He is always good. He is always faithful.