I am on a journey to answer this question: if God allows crippling pain into the lives of those he loves, or who love him, if his protection does not look like we hope it would, is he still good? Below is part 2.5 of my journey— a continuation of Linda’s story, click here to read the first part of her story part 2.
How does a mother who is walking alongside her child as he battles cancer say so emphatically: “Yes, He [God] is a good father!”?
Linda tells me that in the beginning she was in a very dark place, running the gamut of emotions. “You experience sadness and confusion, and I really was like, I’m over this faith thing, and over this relationship that’s a joke. If God is really about this type of life for me, then I am really out…”
“After having this terrible season of doubt, of anger and hatred, the Holy Spirit just started saying, ‘OK fine, if you want to be done with God, every person is allowed to feel that way. So be done with God. But if you don’t believe in God, if you don’t trust God, then what do you believe, what do you think? So I started thinking ‘What do I know?’ So even though I may be very mad right now, and may be forever, I do believe the Bible is true. It is an absolute truth. So I felt the holy spirit say,’ Okay, so if you believe the Bible is true, what does the Bible say?’ So I started researching that. Faith is so great when life is easy. And knowing truth is so good. But experiencing truth is something different.”
“I just started looking up scripture. Ok, God says he’s so great, let’s prove it. So I started with the promises of God. Every time I would read a promise of God I would write it down. I was searching, searching, searching; what is truth? You know the Bible says he will never leave you, he will never turn against you.”
“Some of the verses that were really poignant in my life at that time were Isaiah 43:1-3, when it talks about when you pass through the waters I will be with you, when you go through the fire it will not burn you, when you go through the rivers they will not overcome you. And it talks about how Christ doesn’t allow you to be overwhelmed in whatever the situation is. Those became the verses that I went to all the time on the days I felt overwhelmed with a newborn and a sick child.”
“It was such a sweet time because, you know when you’re at the bottom you really can only go up from there, especially spiritually. I had really felt like I was at the bottom before that. I was so grateful to be coming up out of that darkness, in spite of all that was going on… Of course there have been ups and downs, days where I am angry with God, and days where I am happy with God; days where I can find joy, and days where there is none for me to find.”
“I don’t think if we were to ask Job, ‘Hey, do you feel like God’s protecting you?’ He might have said yes, but what does that look like? Is God protecting me from my children dying? No. Or my wife, or my servants, dying? I think that we subconsciously all have this idea that, ‘My children are going to live beyond my days, I will die before them, and you know yes, there’s going to be hard times…but ultimately I’m going to graduate college, get married, have kids, …’ But the reality is, that’s not what we’re promised. We all know that’s not promised, we all know that at any point anything could change, but the truth is, in my experience, we really don’t believe that… You really have to go back and say, ‘What is true?’ Part of the reason I love Isaiah 43 is because it does not say, ‘ IF you go through the waters, I will be with you. It says, ‘WHEN’. It’s almost like saying ‘You’re going to go through the water,
but when you do, I’ll be with you in the water. Or WHEN you go through fire, I will prevent the burning. WHEN you go through a river, I will not let it overcome you…”
“I think protection isn’t something we understand. It doesn’t mean our child is going to live. It doesn’t mean we’re going to have the house, or the money, or the whatever. It just doesn’t mean that to me. But I do know that God, no matter what, will always be there.”
“I think it’s figuring out that no matter what, God’s goodness is always the same. What we have gone through has been really hard, and very devastating. But people go through a lot worse than what we’ve been through and I can only imagine what they think of God’s goodness. That’s what we have to remember, that in spite of our circumstances, God never changes. We may not feel like God is being good to us, but goodness isn’t a feeling it’s an attribute of Christ. So if I believe what the Word says, and the Word says that God is good, then I don’t doubt that, I don’t question that.”
“What I learned growing up was that your relationship with Jesus was lovely, and kind, and fun and happy. You know, read your Bible every day, pray every day, life is good. But that isn’t what my relationship with Christ is like. I think that the good thing about a deep relationship with Christ, for me at least, is that I don’t mind getting angry with God and expressing that, because God can handle me… That’s given me some freedom in Christ, and I feel safe to do that…”
“I want him [Micah] to have fun. I want him to live life. We are not going to live in a prison here because he’s sick, because he may be sick forever…I never lived my life like today’s the last day… Knowing that your child’s going to die is horrible, and it’s like a gift because you do snuggle a little longer every day, with all of them….”
“As crazy as it may seem, I still have hope for him that he’ll live. Because he could… But since he probably won’t, I think I want for him what everyone wants for their kids. We all want our children to know Christ in whatever capacity they’re able to, at whatever age they are. I want him to love people; I want all of my kids to love others. Serve others, want to serve others. For some people that takes a lifetime to figure out, but I really feel like Micah is there already. He really does love people…he really would do anything for anybody. I just think that’s amazing…”
“I have seen some really ugly stuff happen to children, and I think if I didn’t believe that the Bible was totally true, I would struggle a lot with believing that there is a God that loves me, and is ultimately good even though my circumstance is not good. I think part of believing these things is believing that the world doesn’t revolve around me and my circumstance, but it’s bigger than that. God has plans for everyone, not just me and my child. There have been many days, where I have thought, is God really good? If this is my circumstance, does that mean God isn’t good?” Linda says that these are the times where she has to look at what she knows to be true and ultimately choose joy, not based on circumstance, but on her belief that God is unchanging and ultimately good.
Linda and Maurice will most likely never return to an international mission field. But she says her mission field is with the families they have met through Micah’s treatments. “I think as much as I really wish it was someone else,” Linda explains, “God puts people in this position, or allows these things. We have met so many people, Christian, non-Christian, Atheist, you name it. We get to learn about them, to love them. And maybe we never ever share the love of Christ with them [verbally], that’s ok, because we love them, we love their children, we will be there for them no matter what happens. That’s what will be remembered.” She knows the Holy Spirit will take it from there.
Micah will continue to undergo treatment and the Ahern family would love your prayer support as they continue to walk this road, tucked closely into the side of a Good, Good Father God.
A huge thank you to Linda Ahern for sharing her brave, abiding heart with me.
Part 3 and if not…dance anyway
To learn what started my digging into God’s goodness— part 1