Monday, August 15, 2011
Do I believe God is good all the time?
The thought from William Law's book stays in my mind. All goodness comes from God. How many times have those words of the chorus floated off my lips, "God is good, all the time. All the time, He is good." Have I believed that? That God is good all the time.
Did I really feel He was good when my daughter was lying in a hospital bed, face pale and head bandaged. When the doctors didn't even know what that mass was in her brain (and still don't), and we didn't know where that road would take us? Did I really feel God was good all the time when, weeks after she was discharged from the hospital, we found out this little one in the womb only had a three-chambered heart?
I suppose, with the first blow, it was easier for me to trust in God's plan. I kept singing, "I will praise You in this storm," and I really tried. The only way I could sleep at night was to leave it in His hands. Everyone kept remarking at how strong we were. Were we? I think we were just trying to survive each moment as it came. It made me all to aware that God was the giver of life and the taker as well. I felt so out of control.
I could hear the pain in my midwife's voice as she called to relate the news. She knew what we had been through with our oldest child. She didn't even mention the cyst on the baby's brain. I suppose she thought the heart issue was enough to handle.
It was then I began to question, "Why us?" I knew we wouldn't escape our first decade of parenthood without some sort of huge heart-wrenching event, but two? One right after the other?
I recall days sitting on my bed, staring across the room at my reflection in the dresser mirror. Who was that girl? I felt like God was poking and plucking my children one by one. The future seems so uncertain. Would God heal them both? Could we be that fortunate? Why would He do that for me and allow my friend to lose two of her children within two years? I knew I wasn't more worthy of that mercy and grace.
The story ends well. I have both of my girls, healthy, safe. But now that I'm pregnant again, all those feelings, memories, and emotions are rushing through the cables of my mind.
God is good, all the time. Is that what Abraham was thinking when God told him, "Take your son, Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:2, HCSB) Was he singing songs of thanksgiving as he, his son, and his men made their way across the land? On that third day, as he glimpsed the location from a distance, was his heart full praise?
Did it feel like a punch to the gut when his son asked, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
I've been thinking about this a lot. What am I willing to sacrifice? I've come to a place where I feel I could sacrifice my comfortable living, the material things I love. Could I sacrifice my family? If God chose to take them away, would my faith remain? Would I still praise His name? Would I still call Him good?
My mind drifts to the author of my favorite hymn [It Is Well With My Soul]. Horatio Spafford was a prominent lawyer in the 1860's. He was likely more known for his support of preacher D.L. Moody. His testimony amazes me. Here is a man who seems to have it all- a beautiful wife, five wonderful children, a lovely home in Chicago. And then tragedy strikes.
Their only son is struck with scarlet fever and dies at the age of four. (My third-born is about to be four. I can't even imagine...) A year later, still morning the loss of their loved little boy, the Great Chicago Fire sweeps through the city. The Spaffords had invested in real estate. Almost everything they owned was ashes.
A couple years later, after the family had pitched in to assist in the restoration of their community, Spafford decided it would be good for his family to take a much needed vacation. He sent his wife and four daughters to England, as he was delayed in business dealings and planned to follow shortly after.
On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and two hundred and twenty-six people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. Anna Spafford survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford beginning "Saved alone."
Spafford then sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters' deaths. According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote "It Is Well With My Soul" on this journey. [source: Wikipedia]
The words of his hymn stick with me.
When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."
I remember singing those words one Sunday as my daughter lay lethargically in the hospital bed. My mom and I wept as we listened to a version on YouTube in that cold, sterile room.
It is well with my soul.
Would it still have been well with my soul if one or both of my daughters had died?
How strong is my faith? I mean, how strong is it really? How strong is it when everything seems to be going awry, when the pretty life I had hoped for begins to make a downward tilt, or the plans I make begin to go askew? Will my faith stand, will praise still joyfully sound, will my hope remain?
Do I truly believe that God is good all the time, even when life has taken a road I'd rather not go down, when I lose those I love, when I'm challenged with sacrifices I'd rather not make?
Oh Lord, help my unbelief!