Love Hurts

I stood helplessly beside my son’s hospital crib. He had just endured a life-threatening operation to remove half of his defective right lung. His breathing was labored. The night nurse, concern etched on her face, would not leave his side. Neither would I. I seriously wondered if he’d ever grow up. It’s not a pleasant memory.

That night, I was faced with a choice: would I succumb to fear and anger, or surrender it to God? Thus far, God hadn’t seemed very trustworthy. I never felt so angry and helpless in my whole life. I wanted to grab my son, unhook the tubes, and rescue him from that place.

Instead, I retreated to a quiet room and gritted out this lyric: “My child belongs to you, Lord, for you alone know best. His future is secure, Lord; my heart can lie at rest. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold in store for us. But you alone are faithful; in you alone I trust.”

Our son’s 19th birthday is today, April 13. He’s perfectly healthy -- a college athlete. We're grateful for his recovery, of course, but it still doesn’t diminish the pain of that August evening. Nor does it simplify the hard questions I have about suffering. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.

Friends sometimes sought to console us through our struggle. "You'll understand it someday." Well, it's been 19 years and I still don't understand why he suffered. I don't think I ever will. Or, "God's using this to teach you compassion." Yea, like what kind of cruel God would torture an innocent child just to teach me a lesson?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Pat answers make me puke. For me the most honest thing to say was, and is, this: “Lord, I do not understand you. But I choose to trust you.”

Most of us struggle with these kinds of issues. We avoid pain at all costs. Tough relationship? Trade it in. God doesn’t make sense? Fire him. Church doesn’t meet your needs? Quit. Suffering unfairly? Become bitter or vengeful. Friends let you down? Find new ones.

Consequently, our trail is littered with broken promises, bad memories, and shallow relationships. We never experience the rich textures of love because we never wade through the depths of disappointment.

This Holy Week, followers of Jesus walk with him through the through the deepest valleys of human emotion. His experience of physical, psychic, and spiritual pain was beyond anything we can fathom. “Why have you forsaken me?” he cried in desperation.

Jesus didn’t want to suffer any more than any of us do. But he accepted it and entrusted himself to his Father. His suffering – and subsequent triumph – is what gives all suffering meaning, no matter how horrific.

Many people want a faith that solves all their problems, that answers all their questions. Not me. A faith like that feels phony. I prefer a faith which gives me the confidence to face my problems and the courage to live with unanswered questions.

That’s what I love about Jesus. He never sugar coated things. Instead, he said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” Then he proved it by conquering death. Now that’s someone I can trust!