Saturday, August 23, 2008

He Gives and Takes Away

One of my favorite theologians is Sam Storms. From a post at Already Not Yet I learned that Sam went through a scare this month when his 23 year old daughter miraculously survived a horrible traffic accident. She's fine. However, the incident apparently had a strong spiritual impact on Sam the following Sunday.

You may wonder, then, why Sunday would have been a difficult day for me. I was filled with such indescribable gratitude for what God had done. My heart was flooded with joy and delight as I reflected on how close she had come to death and how wonderful it was that she emerged without serious harm.

The tears of thanksgiving and profound appreciation and worship flowed freely and unashamedly. My hands were lifted high in adoration and praise ....

Suddenly, my hands began to tremble ever so slightly. The tears dried up. Without warning, giving me no chance to prepare my heart, this horrifying thought raced through my mind: “Would I be lifting my hands in love and adoration of the Lord if Joey had died last Wednesday? Or would my raised and open hand be a clenched and defiant fist? .....

I was spiritually paralyzed. A shiver of raw fear ran down my spine. No words can adequately explain the emotional terror that gripped my soul. Was I the sort of person who would only worship and honor and love God so long as he saved my daughter’s life? Was I the sort who would happily and profusely speak of the mercy of divine providence only if it shined on me favorably?

If Joey had not survived the wreck, or if she had been severely injured or paralyzed, would I have declared God to be beautiful, or would I have seen him as ugly and uncaring and indifferent? Was my faith the sort that flourished only in fair weather, or would it withstand the storm of tragedy and loss of the worst imaginable kind?

I couldn’t answer my own questions. I froze in fear. Would I have cursed God instead of extolling him had my precious little girl died?

What a question! How would I react in a similar situation? I don't know. I hope I could sing a song of trust to God even in a time of great pain and sorrow. Sam continued:

I wish I could tell you that I reassured myself by saying, “Hey, Sam, don’t worry. Of course you’d still love God. The pain would be unbearable, but your faith would withstand the test. You’re strong. After all, you’re a Calvinist. Your whole life and ministry are built on the stability and strength of divine sovereignty.”

I wish I could tell you that’s what passed through my mind. But it didn’t. Maybe I would still have praised him. I certainly hope so. Oh, God, please let it be so! But I felt vulnerable in that moment in a way I never have before. I felt weak and frail and terrified that my faith was only as good as were the circumstances of my life.

I have many times glibly and proudly quoted the words of Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). It’s always been easy, because the Lord has not as yet “taken away” anything of great value to me. He came close, but he gave her back. If he hadn’t, could I have honestly and sincerely said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”? I don’t know. That’s what scares me.

Scares me too, Sam. Scares me too.