Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Witnessing Distress

This past week I witnessed two families in distress. The first family spent the first few days of what will likely be a lengthy hospital stay for their youngest child. Doctors and nurses are trying to figure out why she’s so sick. My daughter is about the same age and they are friends. Life was humming along for this family and it turned on a dime.

The second family is being torn apart through divorce. I never would have suspected it, but very little surprises me anymore. I learned this lesson a few years back. You can probably fill in the blank with me. “I never would have suspected this would happen to the _______ family.”
In seminary I read a book by Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised. He’s a professor at Whitworth University whose life was upended by a car accident that claimed the lives of his wife, daughter, and mother. A drunk driver swerved into his lane and forever altered his reality. The key line in the book? Instead of crying “why me” we ought to be saying “why not me.”
We are spoiled living in this country. Suffering takes on a different face. My sister spent three years in Africa in the Peace Corps witnessing untimely death as a norm. And this is Sittser’s point. In a sinful, broken world this stuff is gonna happen. It’s nearly a foregone conclusion. It is more often concealed in our little world.

If you’re a Christian and you’re under the delusion that God’s goal is to get us through life without more than a few knee scrapes, you’ve got some reading to do. Or flip the TV channel to a different preacher whose Gospel isn’t “the power of positive thinking.” I’ve been reading Ezekiel the last few weeks. That poor dude was obedient to God and though he was surrounded by a delinquent people, he suffered. God even took his wife to prove a point to Israel.

Easy for me to say these families will be okay because God is with them. But it’s true. There’s really nothing I can do except remind them of God’s faithfulness and grace. My prayer for them? Healing. Reconciliation. Peace. I pray God will sustain them with clear minds as they suffer and that whatever level of distress they experience will make them stronger and increase their faith.

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