Life has continued its complicated path. In fact, it’s gotten more and more complicated.
For over three months, now, I have been in numb shock at my father’s death. But the shock has been wearing off, and the pain is coming through much more strongly. The pain complicates things. Even the most ordinary, mundane things can seem so difficult. Even enjoyable things can be too much to handle. Work. Writing. Play. Socializing. Prayer. Even my relationship with God has been complicated lately.
The thing is, I didn’t really believe my dad would die. I thought that God would spare me such grief if I asked Him. And I did ask Him, every day. I asked Him to make my dad well, even if it required a miracle. I asked Him not to take my dad from us. I asked Him to please give me a break from grief. After all, I had spent the five years before that grieving the death of another important man in my life. I couldn’t possibly lose my dad too, right on the heels of those long five years. God wouldn’t ask me to go through that when I was just then finally recovering and becoming whole again. Surely, surely He wouldn’t. This is what my heart constantly poured out. I believed it so much.
But God didn’t make my dad well. He didn’t spare me a new grief. He didn’t provide the miracle for which I had prayed so fervently. That was perhaps the most shocking thing of all.
Mind you, I don’t know why I expected a miracle. Families lose beloved members every day to cancer and every kind of ill or injury. Miracles are, by definition, rare. So I don’t know why I was so sure a miracle would come through for me… but I was.
So lately, I’ve been trying to live with the fact that my miracle didn’t come through. Trying to figure out why God permitted things to happen as they have. Asking so many questions. What is the meaning of all this loss and grief and pain and disappointment? What have I done to deserve it? How can I keep going on this way? Was I foolish to pray for a miracle? Was I foolish to pray at all? Is God even there? My doubts can be extremely weighty and extremely dark at times.
But I have also been starting to understand. Small lights have begun to pierce the darkness of doubt.
I recently recalled a passage in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. Lewis possessed a wonderful understanding of pain and grief and persevering in faith. He wrote many great things on these subjects, but none of them have resounded with me quite so much as this passage from one of his books for children.
In this scene, the Lion Aslan, confronts the boy Digory, who has awakened the evil Witch/Queen in Aslan’s newly created land of Narnia:
“Son of Adam,” said Aslan. “Are you ready to undo the wrong that you have done to my sweet country of Narnia on the very day of its birth?”
“Well, I don’t see what I can do,” said Digory. “You see, the Queen ran away and–”
“I asked, are you ready?” said the Lion.
“Yes,” said Digory. He had had for a second some wild idea of saying “I’ll try to help you if you’ll promise to help my Mother,” but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with. But when he had said “Yes,” he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:
“But please, please–won’t you–can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another. But I have to think of hundreds of years in the life of Narnia.”
There is so much in this one brief excerpt that it takes my breath away every time I read it. Above all, it reminds me of two things:
First, I am reminded that God–particularly our Lord Jesus–is completely sympathetic with those who grieve and suffer. He does not cause nor inflict those pains. He never intended for us to experience such things. And yet He Himself was not above them. Scripture tells us that Jesus wept. He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, even though He had the power to raise Lazarus back to life. He wept over the holy city of Jerusalem and all the people He desperately wanted to save, but who rejected Him. And then, there was the Agony in the Garden and the Passion. We all have to pay the wages of sin–but we are not alone, for the greatest portion of the wages was paid by God Himself.
Second, I am reminded that it’s not all about me. Life and creation do not revolve around me and my needs and wants. God doesn’t drop everything and everybody else in the universe to cater to me. I am just one person, just one creature. My little life is at least a third over already. I am just a tiny mote of dust. Does that mean that God doesn’t love me? Does that mean He doesn’t care? No. Part of God’s greatness is that He loves me, even me, with an infinite love and care–and not only that, but He loves all the other little motes of dust in exactly the same way, without ever having His love exhausted! I thought I knew what was best when I prayed my prayers–but who am I to know what is best, even for myself, much less everybody and everything else?
Sometimes we can be so set upon what we want and what we think is best that we don’t recognize the good and wonderful things God does for us and gives us. We get selfish and petulant because we don’t get our own way. We accuse God of not listening to our prayers, of not having pity upon our sufferings, of not loving us, or of not existing at all. And then, if we are fortunate, we realize how petty and blind we’ve been.
The miracles we ask for, the miracles we expect, may not come through. But there are so many others that we take for granted every day: life and love and the fact that God always, always comes through for us.