I've heard of people abandoning their faith in God after bad things happened to them. I've always wondered about that. Why is your faith adequate when bad things happen to other people, and then suddenly invalid when bad things happen to you? If you could remain faithful after learning about the Holocaust, for goodness' sake, then why abandon it when suffering touches you personally?
Losing Mark has knocked me loose. I've had to step back and reconsider everything I believe. Everything. I've had to pull it apart piece by piece to see if it's still valid.
Is there a God? I admit that at first I wanted to abandon my belief that God even existed. After all, he allowed Mark to die, didn't he? But it's hard to look around at creation and not believe in God. I recently heard the world referred to as "an amazing accident." I can't believe this was all an accident. When I'm confronted by the complexity of it all, the amazing intertwining, it seems obvious it was all carefully planned.
So, if there is a God, is he the God revealed in the bible? In January I joined a women's bible study in the middle of studying the life of Moses and jumped right in at the book of Leviticus. Ouch. It was not an easy study. The God of the old testament feels very judgmental, a God who sees things in black and white and delivers swift punishment, a God who commands the obliteration of whole communities. I haven't studied the old testament much in the past and I came away feeling rebellious, questioning passages and struggling to understand. In the new testament (Matthew 22) Jesus says I am to love God with all my heart, soul and mind, and he says I'm supposed to love my neighbor as myself. Verse 40 says: "All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments." In other words, without love the whole old testament, every rule it puts in place and every decree delivered by Moses and the prophets, falls apart. It's as though Jesus is reminding me that I only need to worry about loving God and people, and the rest will fall into place. I can better understand the old testament when see through Jesus' words.
So, God exists, and he's the God of the bible. Then why, oh why, does he allow suffering? And not just my suffering, but horrible, unspeakable suffering? In 2 Corinthians 4:17 Paul says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." How can he describe what we experience on earth as "light and momentary"?
Could it be that our time on earth is insignificant when compared to what waits for us in heaven? It's hard to imagine our whole lives being insignificant when compared to eternity. It's really hard to imagine eternity. We're stuck here on earth We're stuck in time. We're stuck inside our own little brains. We're stuck not understanding, and we're asked to trust, to trust in a God great enough to create everything--everything--we see, know and love. In the same way a parent asks a child to trust and believe, we're asked to trust and believe in God's goodness. I've spent my time since Mark died alternately kicking God in the shins in anger and grabbing onto his knees looking for comfort.
If God is all powerful, then he allowed Mark to die. He allowed Mark to take his own life. People tell me it will all make sense when we get to heaven, but I think when I get to heaven it won't even matter. I think when I get to heaven and see all its glory and understand eternity, whatever happened here on earth will be so insignificant that no explanation will be necessary. So I rest in the knowledge that God's in control, that he allowed Mark to leave earth and join him in heaven, and that I'll see Mark again. Sometimes for very brief moments, it's as if a curtain opens and I'm able to see eternity stretch out before me, and God's perfect peace washes over me.
Just because I get glimpses of eternity doesn't mean I have this all figured out. Grief is a tricky thing. No matter what I believe, Mark is still dead and I miss his physical presence. But I choose to believe in God. Every day I choose God, even on the days I want to kick him in the shins.