Twenty-nine years ago if I had heeded this quote from the creator of Peanuts, I could have saved myself many sleepless nights.
I was pretty consumed back then with trying to figure out how a healthy-eating-and-exercising-mom in her thirties could get cancer. Especially colon cancer for crying out loud! Colonoscopies aren’t even recommended for the average person until age 50.
I never smoked. I wasn’t overweight and worked out regularly at the local Y. I ate a high-fiber, low-fat diet including all our homegrown pesticide-free vegetables. In my mind someone who leaves the skin on their mashed potatoes and who shakes wheat germ on everything should not get colon cancer! Besides my little girls needed their mommy and my husband already watched one wife die a slow, debilitating death.
Any unanswered questions keeping you awake at night?
If you’re trying to figure out exactly why you or your loved one is facing a trial right now, I’m afraid you won’t get any explanations from me. I don’t believe we can make sense of another person’s suffering—only our own. People often want to try anyway and they’ll preach and tell you why it all happened, but they’re not God and they don’t really know. It might make them feel better to think they have it all figured out, but I doubt it will do much for you.
And if you are the loved one of someone facing really difficult circumstances, please don’t tell them “everything happens for a reason.” Such a comment minimizes the sufferer’s feelings and implies that there’s a good, rational justification for what has occurred. I won’t be uttering that phrase to my daughter’s friends who have a 5-year-old with spina bifida and a 7-year-old with an aggressive brain tumor. Instead I will pray that these dear parents, who love their sons and their Lord will run with their sleep-interrupting questions to the One who knows them best and loves them most.
I waited a long time for the Eternal;
He finally knelt down to hear me.
He listened to my weak and whispered cry. Psalm 40:1 The Voice Bible
Hear me, O God, when I cry;
listen to my prayer.
You are the One I will call when pushed to the edge,
when my heart is faint.
Shoulder me to the rock above me. Psalm 60:1-2 The Voice Bible
I’ll never know the answers to your questions or all of mine, but something I read in a book by C.S. Lewis has helped me to be more at peace with not knowing.
It’s found in a scene from The Horse and His Boy, part of Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. These classic children’s books (loved by adults, too) are set in the magical land of Narnia, which is ruled by a powerful lion named Aslan (who represents Jesus). At one point Aslan explains to a rich runaway girl named Aravis why some of the awful things that happened to her had to occur. She then asks Aslan what will happen to her stepmother’s slave, who was punished for falling asleep after Aravis had drugged her.
“Will any more harm come to her by what I did?”
“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No-one is told any story but their own.”
Are you trying to understand your story? Take your questions to your Heavenly Father, who will either give you the answers you need…or the peace to live with the questions.
C. S. Lewis, Horse and His Boy (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 202.
Excerpted from Peace in the Face of Cancer. Copyright 2017 by Lynn Eib.
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