I haven't been able to stop thinking about those words. They came early this month from Ed Dobson as he sat in my living room after sharing his heart at our church. We were gathered with Patrick & Dena and our families--and these two men, both dealing with life-ending illnesses, were talking about God's sovereignty.
That is when Ed said, "I don't think I can trust a God who would give someone ALS." He said the exact words I was thinking as I watched these two men struggle to talk, struggle to get up and down off the sofa, and struggle to eat.
There is a popular Christian song by Matt Redman called, "Blessed Be Your Name." I like the song, but I hate the part that says, "You give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name." I hate it because I don't believe it. And I haven't been able to sing it since Patrick was diagnosed with ALS.
I was looking through my blog archives yesterday, and found that I wrote about the song six years ago in November 2006:
While we were singing, I looked over at my kids. And I wondered, if one of them were taken, could I sing, "You give and take away, Lord blessed be Your name"?
Jim Miller was sitting in the row behind me. Earlier this year he lost his wife of over 50 years. If that happened to me, could I sing, "You give and take away, Lord blessed be Your name"?
I looked up at the stage and began thinking of two of my dearest friends who were taken out of my life two years ago last month. They didn’t die, but they might as well have. One day they were part of my life and the next day they were gone. I remembered how long it took me to be able to sing, "You give and take away, Lord blessed be Your name."
I think about losing my parents, my sister, my brother, my loving wife, or a good friend. I actually think about it alot, it’s probably my greatest fear. I don’t wonder about God’s sustaining grace or worry about the afterlife. I just hate the concept of death and don’t want to lose those that I love. I supposed that is true of all of us to some degree.
When I say I don't believe that part of the song, I realize I'm saying that I don't believe a direct quote from the Bible (Job 1:21). But those were words spoken by Job, not God, and they were expressing his feelings. I respect that, but I just don't think the story or the Bible supports the accuracy of his words. It seems clear to me that God allowed all these bad things to happen to Job. He is sovereign and is in control, and Satan clearly had to get permission to mess with Job. But God did not cause them.
What kind of God would intentionally send children to their death through poverty and sickness? What kind of God would send a rapist into the home of a woman to terrorize her for hours? What kind of God would devise a plan in the hearts of men to fly jetliners into buildings filled with men, women and children?
I realize that "His ways are not our ways" and that He is an infinite God. And I put my faith in that God. I don't need to have answers here on earth. I believe He will provide the grace to face anything that happens. I believe His love becomes more evident when we are facing difficulties (Romand 8:35-39). And I believe His purposes are eternal.
But I do not, and I cannot, believe that my God would intentionally give someone a horrendous disease.
And so I shall continue to remain silent when those words are sung around me.