They did not choose it, but the reality of it was inescapable. This beautiful little girl who loved to sing and dance and twirl around to her favorite song was diagnosed at age 4 with a degenerative disease. This disease would be relentless, cruel and unyielding. She would have to be fitted with braces on her legs and use crutches to walk. Ultimately, she would be in a wheel chair for the rest of her life. Her parents did not choose this reality. No rational human would. But it came anyway.
And when it came, this little girl’s parents had a choice to make. Would they hold on to a faith that proclaimed the existence of an entirely good and loving God who cares for those who love him, or would they abandon that belief in light of their pain and suffering?
Every month I run into people who have believed in a loving, compassionate God all of their lives. They follow a God they believe will protect them and their family from all harm and from the really bad stuff in life. They expect challenges of some kind that might include money becoming tight, a child who drops out of school, an illness that places some limits on diet or mobility, and the inevitable death of an elderly loved on. But they do not expect anything unexpected that will also be particularly devastating.
It’s like they imagine that faith in God makes them immune from such things – like they have a force field of some sorts, or a magical cloak of invisibility that makes it impossible for evil to find them. But it does find many of them, and then the choice. Do I continue to believe in and trust this God who says he loves me, but who seems absent right now when I need him most?
We all have beliefs that we imagine we hold to be true. It’s easy to hold them when those beliefs do not get tested. But when they are tested, our reaction tells us a lot about what kind of God we believe in. Do we believe in a God who exists to give us bearable lives, or do we believe in a God who has called us to be part of a radical, ongoing mission to bring redemption and transformation to a broken people and world, and who promises to be with us when things become unbearable?
The girl who ended up in a wheel chair from this inexorable disease died a very young adult. But her faith, and the faith of her parents lives on. They decided to trust in a God who loves, laughs, cries, grieves, rejoices, and walks through this troubled, challenging, growth-inducing and wonderful life with us, rather than a lesser god who enables convenient, even if strongly desired escapes.
May you place your faith in the God who places us in a world with no big promises other than this – "I will be with you." May you trust in, rest in, be challenged by, and risk your whole life on that grace. And may anything that threatens to steal your life away be met with a relentless trust in the great Redeemer who can turn all mourning into dancing – you know, like that of a little 4 year old girl twirling around to her favorite song. Be encouraged!