When I got married, I had an irrational fear that Jason was going to die within a year.
I knew it was irrational at the time, but that didn't make the fear less real.
I was too happy. I had married my best friend, and he was amazing, I didn't deserve such happiness. Therefore, it wouldn't last, and he would die, leaving me alone once again.
Yeah. I know it sounds crazy.
So, the year passed, my husband remained alive, and (amazing man that he is) helped me to become much more secure and aware of my own worth. The fear was broken with time, prayer, and truth spoken into my life.
After having children, I really only had one major fear: backing over a child. As recently as last month, Jude gave Jason and I a "get to know you" survey that asked us a few meme-like questions, and this is the answer I put down as "my greatest fear."
I had heard of it happening too often. It had happened to one of my musical inspirations, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, when their teenage son hit their 5-year-old daughter in 2008. (She was also their youngest child. And also adopted.)
And then, twelve days ago, my youngest child--for whom I had prayed for years and loved with all my heart--thought it would be clever to hide behind Daddy's truck as he was taking the big boys to school. He ran up on the passenger side and hid in the blind spot. None of the boys in the vehicle saw him, and neither did my husband.
And Levi died in my arms on the way to the hospital.
I have had all kinds of thoughts go through my mind in the last twelve days. Some irrational. Some crazy. But something like this makes you question.
Many of my Christian friends seem concerned that we not lose faith during this time. I think I can see why. Because, as a loving parent, it is hard to imagine a loving God disciplining his own child by allowing another to die.
And yet, in the book of Job, he does.
Job is a god-fearing man who does what is right in the sight of the Lord. His kids? Maybe not so much, as they seem to be into partying. Hard to say. Yet God basically picks a fight with the accuser ("satan" means "accuser") to put Job through an unimaginable trial.
God allows the accuser to remove all of Job's considerable wealth and kill off all of his ten adult children in a single day. Job's response? "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
It is only after Job is afflicted with painful boils all over his body, been told repeatedly by his "friends" that he must have done something really horrible for God to allow all this to happen to him, and had his wife tell him he should just curse God and die that he starts to get a little testy--first with his friends, but then he does start to question why God had allowed this.
Finally, in chapter 38, God shows up and tells Job that he made everything, he is all-powerful and all-knowing, and demands who Job thinks he is to question the justice of his maker. He does not tell Job why he allowed him to go through his immense trial. Job is so overwhelmed in God's presence he basically says, "It was wrong of me to question you. I didn't know what I was talking about. I am an ungrateful worm."
God seems to think that is sufficient, because he ends Job's trials and blesses him with more wealth than before, as well as seven more sons and three daughters (among the few Old Testament women whose names are recorded.)
Does anyone else have a hard time with this book? Because I sure do.
With the trials we have been experiencing this year, and especially since Levi died, I have compared myself to Job a few times.
Except that my trials are nothing compared to his. Neither is my longsuffering.
I have asked God "why?" so many times in the last twelve days, I couldn't count them. And I am certainly having a hard time with blessing his name at the moment.
It's hard to understand why God would allow any of his children to walk through a journey like this. If I had enemies, I wouldn't wish this on the worst of them.
And though my husband and I have served God as faithfully as we know how since we were saved, I am sure our righteousness falls far short of Job's.
So what hope have we?
I am so tired of people telling me what Levi is doing, or where he is. I was raised in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church until I was fifteen, which believes that when you die, your soul sleeps until the return of Christ. At fifteen, I started attending a Pentecostal church, and then a Baptist church when we moved here. Both of these denominations believe that the souls of the righteous go immediately to heaven when you die.
I am not sure which I believe. I can see scriptural arguments for both.
But I do sure as heck know that when people tell me what Levi's doing, they have no clue. If God wanted me to know what Levi was doing, he would tell me.
But the truth is that he seems to be resoundingly silent on the subject at the moment. On any subject, really.
My righteousness may fall far short of the heroic and long-suffering Job's, but this is where I identify with him:
- I have served God faithfully for most of my life.
- I do not know why God chose me and my family to undergo one of the hardest trials any parent can face.
- I do not know why my innocent son had to pay the price for this lesson.
- I do not know why God is so quiet about the whole thing. Do I have to fill thirty-six chapters with my woes before he comes and tunes me in? And will that lesson actually answer a single question I have?
- How does this picture of unjust suffering fit with the loving, self-sacrificial God that Jesus showed us in the New Testament?
This is not the first time on my spiritual walk that I have had occasion to question the very nature of God. But there are a few things I keep coming back to:
- I know, without doubt, that Jesus walked this earth. The facts support it. His life is the most historically verified of any man who has lived until much more recent times.
- The archaeological and historical evidence also supports his resurrection. So, I believe that Jesus was who he said he was--the son of God, come to redeem the sins of the world so we could be restored to relationship with the Father.
- Jesus said that he who has seen him has seen the Father. Jesus was the most loving person to have ever lived, willingly sacrificing his own life because of that love. So the Father must be the same.
I don't know, but I am guessing that a believer may be more prone to ask "why?" in a situation like this than a non-believer. After all, who would an atheist be questioning? It would simply be a random accident that a child was killed.
I don't believe in random accidents. Horrible things happen because we live in a sin-filled world. But I believe that God allows or disallows certain things to happen for a reason. Which is the reason I question. What possible reason could God have had for taking Levi at only three years old?
I don't know why God chastised Job for asking why. It seems the most natural of human reactions. There are a great many things I don't understand about what that book says about the nature of God, and his relationship with Satan.
But, I'm going to be honest--if God is using these trials to prepare us for an even bigger one (as all of my life's trials seem to continually get more difficult instead of easier), then I am afraid.
And maybe there are parts of my heart he is trying to purify through this. Because I selfishly would have had Levi stay here with us. He may be in a better place, but we needed him. And I'm pretty sure God didn't.
Maybe he is trying to purge my heart of fear. May none of my other children pay the price for it.
But will I lose faith through this ordeal?
No. I may be angry at God, but I know he exists. I know he loves me, though I don't understand the way he has shown it recently.
And without my faith, how would I survive this?
Who would I even be?