Friday, January 10, 2003

Shaken, not stirred

One of my patients suffer from the mutilating effects of radiotherapy. While lethal rays shrunk his throat cancer, they scarred his neck vessels, cutting off vital lymph drainage. In two months I saw his face swell unrecognisably, burying his eyeballs and threatening to rupture his lips. His tongue protrudes intractably and he can't swallow. I don't need terrorism stories to stun me speechless. Every day I see hapless victims of head & neck cancers, some of them barely in their 20s, and many of them badly mutilated.

I have no answers to the questions I dare not even ask.

Life can go very wrong (think losing all your property and children, and scraping your sores with pottery). In Job's drama I am face-to-face with a cold scalpel-wielding surgeon who initiates such suffering! We don't have to make excuses for Him (..oh, He allowed it to happen) or shift responsibility ( is the work of evil people). Ultimately this Sovereign God who we say is in control of all things, IS the protagonist. And He does it even to those who 'fear God and shun all evil.'

Our politically correct church lives and good conduct is no safety blanket!

James tells us that Job's agony was the product of 'compassion and mercy' on the Lord's part (Js 5:11). The writer of Hebrews adds that we are 'shaken so that what is unshakable will remain.' (Heb 12:27-28) And indeed as the journey unfolds, Job discovers that matchless thing, the reward that far outweighs all loss and agony. And it is none other than God himself. Not someone else's God. Not what somebody tells him about God. But his own personal God discovered through blood and tears. Not piety. Not a blameless life. He has found his true treasure, the real thing that cannot be taken away from him.

A deep and intimate relationship with the living God.

What should then be my response to people who are suffering beyond explanation? The story of Job teaches me there is no need for explanation. To sympathise ('oh.. you poor thing, life is so unfair') is to say God doesn't know what He's doing.

But to be present in love may help achieve the purpose of one's suffering - to find one's true hope, the unshakable thing, his God.


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