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The most important message I picked up from today’s readings overall is trust God to have a good plan for our part in his story.
My primary takeaway from each of the passages was this:
- Exodus 15-16 – God protects us and provides for us. The appropriate response is gratitude, satisfaction, and generosity, not hoarding. When we hoard possessions, they become a curse rather than a blessing. We should take only what we need and disperse the rest to those who don’t have enough.
- Mark 5 – Healing is a gift from God, facilitated by our faith in his ability and willingness to heal us. But ultimately our healing (or lack thereof) is a matter of God’s plan for us. Healing is ultimately a mystery of God.
- Psalms 33 – God is always on our side, but it’s important to remember that we are part of God’s story, not the other way around. God knows the story from beginning to end. We only know the tiny little part we play, and most of the time we don’t even understand that. We must learn to trust God to have a good plan for our part of his story.
- Proverbs 2 – Watch your step and stay on the good path.
Healing is a touchy subject. People sometimes are not healed. Children sometimes die very young. People we love are sometimes taken from us by disease, illness, or physical accidents. There are a lot of people in the world who have lost their faith and/or hold on to anger because someone they love dearly was not healed, and possibly even died. There are religious traditions that actually teach that if you have faith you will be healed, if you do not have faith you will not be healed, and that you can tell if a person is really a Christian or not by whether they received miraculous healing as a result of faithfully seeking God in prayer. My husband’s first wife (who died in 1998 from the complications of diabetes and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) was actually told by a fundamentalist pastor that she must have sinned terribly to be afflicted by God with her ailments and then not be healed.
Personally, although I try very hard to be a forgiving person and to remember that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” I secretly hope that God has a special Hell for people who go around saying things like that, especially if they are in positions of spiritual leadership and influence over others. I don’t even believe in the kind of Hell that most people who believe in Hell seem to (I’ll write about that in another blog post, at another time), but in cases like the one I described I have a tendency to change my position but a special Hell seems called for in those situations. (God have mercy on my soul for saying so, please forgive my unforgiveness, and please save me from whatever karma might boomerang back on me for that attitude. I’ll say some extra Hail Marys or do some other kind of penance if it will save me from the special Hell for people like me with judgmental attitudes towards people who sin differently than I do. I digress…)
The most important part of healing (or lack of healing) is what we learn about ourselves as we seek God in our infirmities or on behalf of others, and how we respond to being healed or not.
Shortly I first moved to the very small town that I live in now, a few years ago, a two-year-old in our community was suddenly afflicted with a rare and deadly cancerous tumor on her spine. Our entire community rallied around her and her family, all of whom we are well acquainted with because it is a very small town. Every organization in our town, at our school, and many individuals had fundraiser after fundraiser after fundraiser to help that little girl get the medical treatment that she needed, and to support her parents while they sought the treatment. They had to go to Portland, Oregon (769 miles from here) to get that treatment at a Children’s Hospital specializing in that treatment. They were gone for ten months and all the while our community kept up the fundraisers. The little girl improved. The tumor shrank. She regained her ability to walk. She had her third birthday. We were all so encouraged and hopeful. Then she took a sudden turn for the worse after all of that upward improvement, they flew her home, and she died in her parents’ arms at the age of three.
Her parents were heartbroken. Her extended family was heartbroken. Our community was heartbroken. We raised thousands upon thousands of dollars, sent up thousands upon thousands of prayers, and to some it may have seemed that we had done it for nothing.
Not to me. Yes, I was heartbroken, too. In fact, I broke my leg riding my bike for the Great Cycle Challenge team I started to raise money for cancer research for children. I put my prayers, my money, and my body on the line for that little girl, and ended up sacrificing my summer off (which as a teacher was a hard sacrifice–if you’re a public school teacher you’ll understand) for that little girl. I could very well have gotten angry at God for not only not healing that little girl but for breaking my leg in the process (file that under “no good deed goes unpunished”).
But I didn’t. What I chose to focus on in all of that was this: through that little girl’s illness, medical treatment, and death, our entire community came together and did a good thing. We supported her family, we prayed for her and them, and we grieved with them when she passed away. That little girl taught us a valuable lesson about the importance of community, coming together to support one of the families in our community, and putting aside differences for a common cause. That’s no small lesson.
Was it worth it? That’s something we will never know the answer to in this life. I’m sure her parents probably don’t think so (nor should they be expected to). There is no one big picture lesson–no single “takeaway–surrounding her death. There was very likely (most probably) a different lesson for each person whose life she touched.
A lot of people would say “she died too young.” There’s an old saying that people sometimes reference when a child dies: “Only the good die young.” Most people don’t even consider what that might mean, or if there is any truth to it. I have. My take on why small children are taken from us and die “too young” is this: they completed the work they were sent here to do. It bothers me that some people are only given such a short time with us. However, when I consider the impact that little girl had on our entire community it is hard to believe she could have had more impact if she had been with us for longer. Honestly, we all would have loved to have had the opportunity to find out. I know we would have preferred to have never learned the lessons she taught us if it would mean that we could have kept her here with us for a good, long lifetime into her old age. Since it didn’t play out that way it gives me some small comfort to think in those terms. But that’s just me, and this is not an effort to convince people who may be harboring a grudge against God to see it my way–that’s between them and God.
My point is this: There is a lesson in everything we experience in this life, even the hard things; especially the hard things. Healing, or lack thereof, is one of those experiences that seems to be one of the greatest teachers. The story of Jesus is intertwined with multiple stories of healing. Apparently, it’s something we’re supposed to contemplate; but I don’t think the conclusion we’re supposed to come to is one that requires us to believe that believers and the faithful get healed while those who don’t believe and aren’t faithful do not. According to the Psalms and the Proverbs, God sends the rain and the sun down on us all. Some are healed. Some are not. We may never know why. For answers (which we may never receive) it is incumbent upon us to seek God and stay faithful. That’s the lesson.
That’s what I got out of it. What did you get out of the readings today?
You can join the discussion in the comments, below; or you can join us in our private Facebook group that I set up specifically for sharing what we take-away from the readings each day.
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