Recently, I sat with a woman whose family shares an extra-ordinary story. As a pastor, I am often afforded a dynamic front-row seat into the inner-lives of everyday people–their beauty, their dreams, their hang-ups, and their pain. This seat reveals both amazing works of God and amazing soul-stories–found in the most interesting and unlikeliest of places and people. And this recent eye-opening conversation kicked open another similar door into this wikipedia of the work of God.
This lady’s husband had been estimated by his oncologist/hematologist to only have 2 days left to live. Two days left to live.
That was about six years ago. (Or, over 2…THOUSAND…days ago…and counting…if you’re doing your math at home.) Her husband has ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. Yes, I know, you almost contract a condition just trying to gurgle it aloud.) The long-and-short of the condition is that the sufferer can’t stop bleeding. The blood doesn’t clot like it normally should because of the number of platelets (or lack thereof).
So, to speed-rewind his story, my friend’s husband couldn’t stop bleeding and had been determined to have only two days to live. With that grim prognosis, the couple chartered a life flight to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Upon arriving, a resident at Mayo sadly told the couple that there wasn’t much they could do for the husband. Disturbed by this drastic news, the distraught husband started pulling all of the tubes and IVs out of his body. (Which led to quite a bloody mess in his room. And if you suffer from ITP, free-flowing blood is not a dream scenario.) Startled by this response, the doctor tried to walk his estimations back a bit. To which the patient said, “If you can do something, then DO it!” In other words, don’t tell a dying man that CAN BE SAVED that you’ve given up on him.
That sheer act of willful desperation changed everything. They–as he asked–did something. And–oh yeah, I almost forgot–my friend, the patient’s wife, pointed out how there was such an enormous difference at Mayo because of their amazing collective commitment to and belief in prayer, there. (It’s reassuring to know that ALL of science hasn’t given up believing in THE Scientist. The Great Physican. The Maker. The Healer.)
Of course, to a skeptic, names like that given to God sound like Hokus Pokus. For people who haven’t let their eyes be opened, calling God THE SCIENTIST or The Healer comes across like empty belief in the Tooth Fairy. (Everybody knows that Mom or Dad puts the coins under the pillow. Only a child would believe in something so UN-believable.) And–to the skeptic’s tragic self-undermining–they pass this assumption on to God about His activity in the lives of humans.
But, friends and neighbors, know that the skeptics aren’t only atheists or agnostics. There are a great number of people who occupy pews more than occasionally who have stopped believing, too. When God didn’t seem to answer a prayer (for healing for themselves or a loved one), God “the Healer” sure seemed as real as Sprite the Tooth Fairy. (A shallow theory…a thin theology…believable only by the sheltered, the inexperienced, the unaware, the uneducated, the simple-minded.)
Ah, but there’s probably more to a skeptic’s story than that, isn’t there, my fellow neighbors? Most struck with a bout of cyncism like the one I’ve described have experienced something that has probably defined God for them. That’s boxed Him in. That’s limited Him. That’s tainted the power they used to assume He possessed. Their human angle of a tragic event or an unanswered prayer or a deep moment of pain has left a firm imprint that God doesn’t show up. And that experience has given them something that has blinded something about God in their heart’s eye.
Of course, I am not here to minimize an experience where God did not appear to answer the way a person prayed. I, too, have experienced the same kind of moment. Jesus did, too, you may remember: “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42–niv). The Father didn’t take it from Him. But, it was neither impotence nor sadism that had the Father allow His Own Son to walk through the pain. That Pain changed everything for the world. Jesus’ human will to live didn’t override His understanding that THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING BIGGER GOING ON.
You see, our Human Will to Live is never larger than God’s Divine Will to Love. Why? Well, God can’t convey His power to us when we think we’re in control. God can’t convey His provisions to us when we feel filled up and fine. God can’t convey His love to us when we’re filling the gaping God-sized hole in our soul with synthetic hopes. HE NEEDS THAT DRAMATIC MOMENT TO SPEAK TO US JUST AS MUCH AS WE NEED HIM TO BE GOD IN IT.
Materialists try to fill the holes with earthly satisfactions and solutions. Skeptics put a cover over the hole and deny access or even deny it exists. But believers recognize the hole, uncover it, and hunger for it to be filled. You know why? God can’t fill something where there’s no hole. And many times, the tragedies and traumas of life reveal that there is a void that can only be filled by One.
Because God–paraphrasing that desperate patient–screams out: “If I can do something, then please let Me do it!” God realizes that we are all, ultimately, human lives that will one day come to an end physically, but that WE CAN STILL BE SAVED. And more than that…GOD NEVER GIVES UP ON US. And that’s a message for every person throughout human history…all 6.5 billion people alive on earth today…(and counting…) And that counts YOU.