This photo of my dad and me popped up this morning in my Facebook memories. Apparently I shared it one year ago. I love this picture because it is an image of my father with a genuine smile on his face.
This smiling face in this photo reminded me of the father I had while I was growing up and even into my late 20s. He was soft hearted, soft spoken, and rarely raised his voice. He worked long hours at his job to support my mom and me. He took care of everything as far as paying the bills and keeping up with the outside of the house and even the inside when my mom was sick. He listened to me when I needed him. He forgave me when I did something stupid. I just remember him as being light hearted and gentle with a dry sense of humor. But for the last decade plus a few years he hasn’t been smiling quite as much.
I am foggy with the years but I believe he started to become ill in 2002. We didn’t realize at the time but he had developed a neurological disease that was slowly beginning to take away his mobility, memory, control of his bladder, etc. and in return was giving him horrible headaches. He had surgery and a shunt was placed in his head that drained the cerebral spinal fluid that was collecting there and causing pressure. It helped for a while but the valve malfunctioned. His pain became drastically worse to the point where I found him outside on the ground one day with a gun beside him. I will never know what happened because he didn’t remember or couldn’t put into words that day what happened other than his head was killing him. I cannot even imagine the kind of physical pain he was in at that time.
Fast forward a dozen or so years and although he cannot walk at all anymore and needs help with all of his basic needs, he is living relatively pain free in a nursing home where he has been for nearly a decade. He has been through a lot besides the brain disease. He found out that he had prostate cancer right after he retired. He had a severe heart attack and has had several stents placed in his heart the year before he moved to the nursing home. He was in the hospital for over 2 weeks with severe pneumonia about four years ago. He had a malignant melanoma removed from his arm and escaped skin cancer spreading. There might be more but those are the major things I remember. To me that’s more than any human should have to experience. Especially a human who believes in God, right? Why has he had to endure suffering with so many different physical ailments for so long?
I read Job 1-2 this morning and it made me think about my dad. Job had everything he needed and then some but God allowed Satan to take EVERYTHING away. And in the midst of his grief he still praised God by proclaiming,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
God allows suffering but suffering doesn’t last forever. Jesus suffered on the cross to identify with our suffering. There is always a reason and a purpose leading to the fulfillment and glory of His plans. When I apply this to my own life, I have not suffered physically but have suffered emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And I have had a lot taken away. I mainly think about my past relationships and two divorces. The first divorce sent me on a path that ultimately led me to my second husband. When he left, I was left with nothing. All of these events pointed me back toward God. Looking back, I didn’t blame him. I needed him more than ever.
I know there is worse suffering than my family has experienced but we all will deal with it to some degree at different times in our lives. This is not the time to look away or give up on God. It is instead a time to grow closer. We may not always understand the reason for suffering and we aren’t supposed to.
What’s important to remember is that God is good at being God. He has the final word and I will praise Him anyway.
Stacey ~ iamalive