We often say, and rightly so, “God speaks to us.” The Genesis story of creation is not about a God who launched the earth into orbit and suddenly got bored so He turned his attention elsewhere. It is quite the opposite, the God of the Bible is always paying attention… His mind does not wander… He sees everything He has made and takes delight in it. So, as His children on earth, we need to be convinced that God is not folding his arms at a bored distance, but desires to be near and dear and come speak gently to us. But where we run into difficulty is that we are not always paying attention to the gentle knocks, nor watching for his coming. So if the question is asked of us, “What has God been saying to you of late?” Our response is to go, “Ah… wha, sorry, what’s the next question?” We haven’t trained ourselves to discern his presence. I’m not suggesting that we become mystics or monks or spend hours in meditation before the sun even gets a chance to rise. But there is a calling from the deep to the deep in us for a good conversation.
I’ve taken note that sometimes God comes knocking on our door through circumstances that gets our undivided attention. It came about for me with hearing issues. Ironically my physical hearing maybe reflected my spiritual hearing, or lack of it. As I tried to get to the bottom of why my right ear seemed muffled, the third ENT specialist mouthed the words, “You have a tumor in the brain,” Finally, I had my answer! Then I was completely stunned. I didn’t hear much of anything else in that bright office. Patricia, my wife of 30 years, also heard the words and began shaking uncontrollably. She was still shaking when we got to the parking lot. I remember as I walked to the elevator that I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, not even my own Patricia. I was floored as I pondered my new future. Questions pounded my brain, “Do I have brain cancer or will I die soon? What does this new tumor-reality mean for me?”
No one expects to be smashed with news like this. In an email a friend wrote, “When I heard your news I was numb. It really helps me put my situation into perspective.” Another person said, “If Peter can be happy even with a tumor in his brain, I guess I can learn to be happy with my situation.” With a chuckle I thought, “Lord, this tumor is a pretty nasty way to help others, don’t you think?” Yet times like this do help us to ‘stop and think’ and open ourselves to new perspectives and to be thankful for what we have and where we are in life.
Since the initial bad news I have been reassured by the medical field that I don’t have cancer and I most certainly won’t die soon. That being the case obviously God still has earthly purposes for me and therefore a few more chapters are still to be added to the Peter DeWit life story! The fact is, even though I feel like I am ‘young’ for my years, Father Time keeps ticking away, and one day I will come to an end in one manner or another. So at 50 years of life I am a lot closer to the final paragraphs than when my story started as a ‘once upon a time’ in a little hospital room in Holland.
I know there is a long road yet to go. I don’t want to think about my head being drilled. Though this surgery is not thought to be life-threatening, this situation has invited me to reflect personally on how I want to respond to God, to life, and to others. Humbly I’ve asked myself and my God, “Are there areas in my life that I need to re-align now or change now or concentrate on now in order to become a better reflect ‘You-in-me? What has really absorbed my thinking is searching out the depth of the word hope.
The question that I have brought up with others frequently these days is: “When life seems to be turned up-side-down and all around us seems to be full of negative outcomes what enables the people of God to keep living with joyful purpose and hope? Obviously there are so many wrong ways we can respond to the incessant struggles and disappointments of life. The Bible talks of those who have slowly drifted away from the faith they once held dear and ended stone-cold in their love. I’ve seen too many lose their ‘zest’ for life because of as rotten happenings, failures and injustice, both real and perceived. I have seen some, when life knocks them down, after the numbness wears off, their response is to shout at God in anger, “Why did you allow this to happen to me? Where were you that day, when… my child ( Or change that to mother, father, wife, dog, and cat; etc) got killed?”
Another story comes to mind when Jesus’ own disciples violently woke him up during a storm on a sinking boat. In that storm they accused Jesus of not caring for their fate. There certainly are times when it seems that God is not paying attention to our prayers and situation. My own wife tells of putting her Bible in a drawer for two years while simmering on His imagined silence to her prayers for better circumstances. Though she never walked out on God, she wasn’t too happy with Him.
Just yesterday someone wrote to me saying how angry he was at losing his wife to a sudden heart attack. It took him a few years to finally forgive God! In his own brutally honest words he said, “Not great theology, but good psychiatry!” David in Psalm 44 got so mad at God that he harangues his God by saying, “Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake… Just wake up and do something to show you are engaged in this relationship, please!”
I recognize that anger might be a legitimate and necessary response in the process of re-kindling your hope. God is not threatened by our questions, anger or doubt. But at the same time the Lord wants to redeem us from our despair. He wants to move us from anything in our past that may have caused us to become bitter and into hope. Rubbing shoulders with people who have stayed the storm, soul survivors, is one way I am encouraged to hope. Now when I think of this tumor in my brain, I ponder and wonder, “Hmm, maybe God is telling another good story of hope through me?