Musings, Nits, and Praises: Angst

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher


I'm at a low point right now. In fact, it's fair to say I'm mired in angst. As a Christian, I've always known that in serving an omniscient and omnipotent God that we as finite beings will find His ways nearly inscrutable. Thus, when it comes to the problem of suffering in the world, it has always been relatively easy to say, "God is sovereign; we can't ever fully understand His ways." If God indeed exists, then that answer is entirely valid.

But what do we make of a verse like "
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven"? Obviously God isn't a blessing soda machine, where we insert our prayer and He automatically dispenses a blessing. (Incidentally, a verse that has been added to "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock" that says "The blessings come down as the prayers go up" rubs me the wrong way.) But given that plenty of sick people that faithful people have prayed for have died, we look for a deeper interpretation such a passage. Back in March I wrote a blog about this very same scripture and suggested that given some of the surrounding verses, James seems more concerned about spiritual healing. Perhaps James is, in fact, saying just that, but are we looking for a deeper interpretation because our gut tells us that James is wrong? The interpretation that James is stressing spiritual healing usually rests on "If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." Is it not possible that James is saying that faithful prayers will heal a sick person and that if the person's illness was a result of sin, then his sins will be forgiven, too?

I don't keep tallies on how many sick people we (whatever church or churches pray for a given person) pray for wind up being healed, but it seems the healings are few and far between to the point where the cynical side of me wonders if they may not just be chocked up to coincidence. (I'm just speaking from my own experience.) Now, of course, you have to consider the fact that all people die, so obviously at some point God will choose not to heal someone. Well, the inevitability of death is an easier thing to accept when we're praying for an elderly person to be healed. If the person is healed, we feel our prayers have been answered. If not, we can say, "Well, it was his time" or "He lived a full life." But what do we make of everyone else? A few years ago in Austin, a man in his late 30's at our church was diagnosed with cancer. He and his wife had a toddler and an infant. We prayed earnestly for his healing, but after several months, he died. Yes, God is sovereign, but where is His love and mercy in that situation? Where?

In May I learned that a friend of mine from college was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer that had spread to several places in his body, including his brain. As if facing life-threatening cancer wasn't bad enough, he and his wife had just had their first child. Of course, many people (myself included) have been ardently petitioning God for his healing since then. As is the case with nearly all cancer treatment, it's been up and down for him. The first "check up" a few months ago yielded mixed results. He's set for another check-up in November. His wife provides updates on his health on their family blog, and the past few updates have broken my heart. To hear that he's discouraged at God's lack of intervention to this point has caused me to pause and reflect a lot on God the past few days. For those of us praying for him, we know that God certainly has the power to heal anyone of anything. Yet, when I think about all the times God has not healed the sick person, I realize that there's also a very real chance that he will die. Again, how would that show God's love and mercy? How could a loving and merciful God not heal a 30-year-old husband and father?

Pondering those questions is what has brought me to this point of angst. Three years ago (around this time of year, in fact), I reached the emotional nadir of my life to that point. Not "feeling" God was present, not having any emotional connection to Him, I attempted to rationalize my faith. Now, I believe there's plenty of logical reasons to conclude God exists, but ultimately I reached the limitations of reason I had known I'd reach in the first place. No one can prove God. And that's when I began to wrestle with some disturbing thoughts: "What if God is make believe? What if we believe in God just because it makes us feel better, because we want life to have meaning, because we're simply afraid of death?" Morbid perhaps, but they are questions I think most believers skirt. Thanks to some thoughtful counsel from some older Christians and an eventual recapturing of "feeling" God to some degree, I rose from my mire of doubt.

Unfortunately, I've been nearly right back at that nadir the past few days. The problem with the aforementioned disturbing questions is that they can't be answered from the believer's standpoint or the non-believer's standpoint with absolute certainty. Low points like this, though, make non-believers' claims seem a bit more credible. Nonetheless, faith can never be proof. Of course, that statement forces me to wrestle with the certainty expressed by the writer of Hebrews in 11:1. If Paul wrote Hebrews, how could he not be sure--seeing Christ on the road to Damascus, as well as his vision of heaven. That then begs the question as to why God doesn't give us much more overt "signs" than He does. Alas.

I wrote this blog out of a desire to vent and out of a hope that some readers may have found themselves in a similar place at one time or another. To me, one of the most poignant moments in the gospels is in Mark when a man brings his demon-possessed son to Christ to be healed, and he says to Christ, "I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief."

May the man's words be a prayer for us all.

8 Responses to “Angst”

  1. # Blogger Malibu Librarian

    Hey - got your call and sorry I haven't called back. What's your number nowadays?  

  2. # Blogger Jason

    Same # as before: 512-466-1287.  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hey! I have been praying for you and your friend. Just remember Matthew 11:28-30. Also remember the book of Psalms. This will help you during this difficult time. Let me know at school if you want me to pray with you at school at any time.
    D.W. (the political one in Period 5 English, 12th grader)  

  4. # Blogger PiperMatt

    Well said. I know exactly where you're coming from.  

  5. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hey Jason...

    I can definitely say that I often read scripture and say to myself...

    I can't wrap myself around that,
    I cannot apprehend it!

    I often wondered why does God heal some and not others?

    At one time I wrestled with "is God for real or not?", I have to say I have laid peace to that. I know that I know. I don't wrestle with that one now.

    I Love your ending
    "Lord help me in my unbelief!"

    That is the cry of my heart too, as unbelief holds us back from rest. There is rest in my soul when He is Lord over something. The areas of unbelief are the areas in my heart that are uneasy.

    Thanks for sharing your Journey with us Jason.

    In Him

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I definitely know where you are coming from, and I admire your courage to voice your doubts rather than treating them like they are unspeakable as I so often do. You have touched me with your openness. Thank you for that. I hope that Chris and I can be an encouragement to you in any and every way that we can.


  7. # Blogger Jason

    I have nothing of any real insight to offer. I'd just like to say thanks for all the encouraging responses.  

  8. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Hey Jason!
    Found your blog through Stephanie's, don't know Stephanie either but a friend asked that I pray months ago for Keith. Wanted to comment on your post re; dad of toddlers that died after fervent prayer. "I know God is soveriegn but where is his mercy and love at a time like that?" God's soveriegnty alone makes him a God so much better than family, children, health. Salvation to a dirty rotten sinner as myself should make me love him so much more than life.........and, praise him for the kids he gave the surviving wife to leave a legacy, praise for even being allowed to know someone and loving them. We act as if sometimes that God is this big grampa up in the sky that we treat like Santa Claause and do not praise him for bad. His plan will not be thwarted and I am just blessed to be IN his soveriegn plan at whatever cost. Praying ..really...that you feel his presence again and thank him for the bad. Psalm 138:8 says God WILL accomplish all that concerns you. I was touched by you recommending that book to Stephanie and probably that book will aide in his plan to accompish what concerns her. God bless you J  

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