Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is the intensive course I am taking to improve my pastoral care skills. I love it because it challenges me to consider different aspects of this work and I grow in faith and strength to live into the calling God has given to me.
Reflection papers are required each month as part of the course. As Kurt, our Virtual Assistant, proofread this one, he suggested that I share it on the blog. So here it is. I pray that it will help.
Years ago while sitting in a waiting room of intensive care with a new friend, Sylvia, she began to wrestle with this question, which in turn caused me to wrestle with it as well. She and her husband, Terry, both in their late 20’s, had recently been in a car accident on Hwy 98 between Pensacola and Ft Walton. She survived with only a few bruises but he was thrown out of the car, suffering a broken neck. Additionally, a tiny sliver of oyster shell penetrated into his neck. At first the sliver went undetected but soon made its presence known with vengeance. The subsequent havoc it caused in Terry’s body lead to his death.
The days turned into weeks in that waiting room. Time became a blur. Some days brought encouraging news that everyone hung onto so very tightly while other days brought only discouragement.
The couple was so young, so full of life, so much of life ahead of them. They attended a church and tried to live their life doing what was right.
Why did God allow this to happen? This question haunted me for months. If God is as all powerful and mighty as we are taught, and he is, he could have prevented the wreck. He could have prevented the sliver of oyster shell from entering his body and he could have healed him – but he did not. Why? I don’t know.
These questions lead to bigger ones. Why does evil exist? Why do humans have a sinful nature? Why are there such things as cancer and genocide? Yes, answers are given to these questions by theologians far more knowledgeable that I, but quite honestly, when I am sitting in the waiting room of intensive care watching and feeling the excruciating pain which too often lives there, the pat answer given by too many well-meaning Christians are hollow words with no comfort.
One of the scriptures that aggravates me because it is heard too often in such situations is Romans 8: 28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
While I know this is true, there is a time and place to employ this passage for comfort. One also needs to have an understanding of where the received is on their spiritual journey for them to gain comfort from this verse. I have witnessed too many people turn away from God because the believers in their life just gave pat answers without recognizing the depth of despair or respecting the emotional strain the receiver is living.
While I’ve been on the spiritual journey with Christ now for many years, I have come to understand that, sooner or later, God has allowed me to see him use most traumatic experiences for good in either my personal life or in the life of another. Often I’ve been able to comfort others with the same comfort I received in the midst of horrific experiences.
My bottom line for me is this: Sin and evil exist but they are not greater or stronger than God. I really don’t know why God allows many things to happen and I never will. Isaiah 58 tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. I will not always understand His ways.
He never promised that we would not experience traumas. He HAS promised, on numerous occasions, that he would never leave or forsake us. So no matter what life might bring me, I can live through, one moment at a time, resting on that promise.
Maybe one day I will have a greater understanding of why God allows so many things to happen but that does not help me live through them. I have to cope and help others cope today. Personally, I live by faith that loved us more than we can comprehend and he is with me every second of the undesired experience. He will see me through it.
“38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. “ Romans 8:38, 39.