Not long after the tsunami that caused the deaths of more than 200,000 and displaced millions more in Southeast Asia the day after Christmas in 2004, a commentator in The Herald of Glasgow, Scotland wrote, “God, if there is a God, should be ashamed of himself. The sheer enormity of the Asian tsunami disaster, death, destruction, and havoc it has wreaked, the scale of misery it has caused, must surely test the faith of even the firmest believer…I hope I am right that there is no God. For if there were, then he’d have to shoulder the blame. In my book, he would be as guilty as sin and I’d want nothing to do with him”
It isn’t just natural disasters that raise questions about whether God can be trusted but personal tragedies that we or people close to us have or will experience. While writing this, I know of someone who has battled ill health for 20 years. I remember a kind and generous Christian businessman whose business failed. It left him and his wife broken and ashamed.
One of the saddest and most difficult experiences for me to make sense of is the death of Floyd McClung, a global missions leader, bestselling author and international speaker from the US. Together with his wife, Sally, they have served God on every continent except Antarctica. Their life and work have featured in countless publications, including Time magazine and The New York Times. “Only eternity will reveal the depth and breadth of his legacy” – said a global missions leader about Floyd’s contribution to the cause of God’s enterprise on earth. I couldn’t agree more!
Having visited South Africa on numerous occasions beginning in 1978, Floyd and Sally felt God leading them to Cape Town, Africa to pioneer a new church planting ministry in 2006. “At a time when most people would consider retiring”, said Sally, “we packed up everything, moved halfway around the world and started over”
In February 2016, Floyd became ill very suddenly and ended up in intensive care within a matter of hours. He was diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection, leading to septic shock and damage to his muscles, vital organs and neural pathways. He remained conscious but he was incapacitated, hospitalized and unable to speak from then until he passed away last year on 29 May! He was 75. During this time, Sally was and is still battling cancer!
“Why them God, of all people?” (No answer yet from the Lord!)
If I am struggling, spare a thought for Sally! However, when you read her blogs, while you can sense pain there, she also writes about three critical areas of growth in her faith: that God is in control, infinitely wise and perfect in his love.
The book of Job is more than just about suffering but keeping faith in God in the midst of suffering like the Sallys of the world. Our faith relationship with Him is what matters most to him, the importance of which Jesus underscored through his suffering in order to bring this about.
In times of suffering, God calls us to keep faith in him. Will we do this? By His Spirit, we can!
“Lord we believe; help our unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-25)