March Madness, Social Distance, and Doubting God.*

It’s been nearly nine months since a blog post.

It could be that the job I started in July has kept me pretty busy. (It has.)
It could be that an academic presentation eclipsed my blog writing. (It did.)
It could be that after waiting so long, it seems trivial to write when the world is turning upside down. (It does, and it is.)

But here we are.

Last year, friends told us 2018-19 was one of the hardest, longest, snowiest winters ever in Omaha. This year’s weather pales in comparison to last year’s. But oh my goodness, how long the winter has seemed. Not because there was a ton of snow, but because we’ve been counting hospital stays, logging miles, and waiting for test results for our granddaughter, Isla. And now, on top of our family struggles, the world’s gone mad about COVID-19, social distancing, and self-quarantine.
Uncertain times indeed.

We’re longing for spring…aching for the promise of Easter.

While our life has had twists and turns, it’s been pretty easy overall. Except for one scary car accident where both of our kids needed stitches, parenting was a cake walk for us. We always had a comfortable home, plenty to eat, and jobs we enjoyed. You know, it’s easy to be faithful and obedient when things go well. It’s easy to be lulled into complacency when life is easy. It’s easy to fall for a“good life” prosperity gospel when everything is going your way. Our first 34 years of marriage and parenting were pretty great.

And being a grandparent is even better. As Nana and Pops, we have the unique blessing of enjoying all the fun and little of the day to day stress. It’s easy to think that our good fortune is somehow related to our good behavior. Even the Psalmist agrees, saying “the Lord’s love for those who respect him continues forever and ever, and his goodness continues to their grandchildren” (103) Obviously, according to this author, God blesses those who obey the rules.

But last July we found out that our 3 year old granddaughter had cancer – Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Nothing really prepares you for news like that. It’s been hard to put words to my feelings over these past several months (another reason for not writing, perhaps). But I found some words now.

Anger. Confusion. Denial. Frustration. Doubt. Sadness. Despair. Uncertainty.

Obviously, this diagnosis either did not align with the Psalmist’s theology, or someone in my family must not be living right for this horrible thing to happen. How in the world could this be? Why my kids? Why my grandkid? Who wants to live in a world where 3 year olds get leukemia?

Job had some questions like that for God. In his response to unhelpful friends, he cries out  (Job 29:2) –  “I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me…for the days when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me”  

Like Job, I didn’t just feel like God was inattentive. I felt like God was absent.

Life was much simpler when our kids were little and the biggest problem we had was trying to get them to eat their broccoli at the dinner table. But as the song Here Again reminds us, we can’t go back to the beginning. And we can’t control what tomorrow will bring. But we can choose to trust God’s presence in the middle of the pain, in the middle of the doubt, in the middle of the suffering. 

We can choose to “let God’s love rise above every fear”.

Yet every day, if I’m honest with you, can feel like a battle. So many unanswered questions. So many unknowns. So many medications and treatments. I think of the verse in 2 Chronicles 20 where they cry – “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you.”

We don’t know what type of treatment to choose,
but our eyes are on you, God.
We don’t know what the outcome of this battle will be,
but our eyes are on you, God.
We don’t know how to navigate this uncertainty,
but our eyes are on you, God.

When I think about this battle (against time, against leukemia, against doubt, against pandemic) I’m thankful for the God who goes before us and stands behind us. The song Defender begins with the line “You go before I know that you’ve even gone to win my war.”  Our eyes are on the God who is already there in the hospital, already there in the chemo in her bloodstream, already there in the room where a doctor will report her prognosis. Like Moses reminded the Israelites at the Red Sea, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Be still.

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…The Lord says – “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46)

The Lord Almighty is with us.

*I shared a version of this post as a worship testimony at our Mar 1st Access service at CCC (starts around 17 minutes in).

Published by

Dawn Gentry

Jesus Follower, Ministry Equipper, Conference Speaker, Mom, and Nana

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