Joan was asked this question again, yesterday, for the fourth time within the last week or so. And so, Joan has been giving some thought to the question. And, she has given me permission to share this with you and offer some thoughts.
Before we give any answers, we wonder why the question and why now? Not sure we’ve been asked it before, and certainly not four times within a short time. In the past we’ve been asked things like: How do you do it? How do you go through all the hospitalizations? How do you keep having joy? How does your family keep having hope? How do you keep going?
Behind the older set of questions is the assumption that our life isn’t always easy, that there is pain and that there are disappointments. True! All of those are true.
And what is the assumption behind the present question? Are we supposed to be angry with God? Is that the most natural thing to do? Does it presuppose that God has ripped us off, that he is unloving and unfair? Is there something wrong with Joan that she is not angry with God? Or are the questioners simply looking around and observing that most people in similar circumstances are angry with God, or if they themselves experienced what we do, would probably be angry with God?
One assumption behind the question that is certainly correct is this: Joan is not angry with God. To that I can testify. She’s had lots of questions for God over the years. She has not hesitated to direct them to the Almighty. She’s been better at prayers of lament than anyone I know. Maybe that is part of the reason she isn’t angry. She doesn’t tend to let things fester and she comes to terms with things as they are.
Joan also resonated very much with the words of Peter recently (that is, Peter was quoted a few Sundays ago in a sermon at our church – a series entitled “When in Doubt”). Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Though Joan doesn’t always like the way things are, what are the options? If she gets mad at God and cuts him off, what is left? He is the one who gives her life and joy.
“Why aren’t you angry with God?” Joan noticed that she has been asked the question when Kari has been by her side. “How old is Kari,” they ask. 35 years old. That is a long time to live with disappointment and to see Kari somewhat trapped within a body that doesn’t work well for her. So, maybe Joan wasn’t angry at first, but after all these years and the hope for a miracle behind her, maybe now would be the time for resentment to build? Maybe. On the other hand, even more reason to be grateful that Kari is still with us and that she keeps bringing us joy.
I will say this, and Joan said I am also free to share this… As time goes on, some things are getting harder for her. The issue is physical pain – sometimes unbearable. She needs back surgery. It is something that shouldn’t be put off much longer. Her back is her Achilles Heel. If she were to fall or have some other accident, she would be at high risk for permanent damage.
Her need for surgery may date back to an auto accident we were in ten years ago – hard to know for sure. All her hard work as a caregiver may have aggravated things and brought her to this point sooner. And then it took some time to come to terms with the idea of undergoing back surgery. But she is there now and if she has any remaining doubt, it is quickly wiped away by frequent searing pain followed by weakness and numbness!
Does all that drain her? Yes. Is she a little grumpy and less tolerant of the antics of the rest of us? Sometimes. I must be honest. 😊. But, even with physical afflictions added, and though it often gets to her, she still isn’t angry with God. Mostly, she is joyful. She is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). If you didn’t notice she is in a lot of pain from time to time, it’s because she doesn’t tend to show it – either in public or at home.
So, when is the surgery? Don’t know. Elective surgeries like this aren’t being done right now. With the slowing of the Omicron variant, we’re hoping that will change soon. But even then, Joan is on a list with thirty-five others – that is just this surgeon’s list! And I’m thinking that when operating rooms begin to reopen for people like Joan, every surgeon will be jockeying for time in those cool, sterile, well-lighted places.
Pray for the preservation of Joan’s back in the meantime and that she’ll continue to be able to bear with her pain – she doesn’t seem to have a different choice right now. And pray that when the time comes, surgery will be a great help to her.