If God is Good, then why do cancer wards exist in children’s hospitals?
If God is Good, then why do cancer wards exist in children’s hospitals?
Once upon a time there was a guy, actually he was three guys. But he wasn’t exactly a guy like you or me, no he (plural-but not) has been around for just about forever. And one day he decided to do something about being the only guy-I mean three guys-or whatever….
Though he (plural) wasn’t lonely, and had no needs, and was in absolute complete harmony with himself and his alter egos-he decided to create a whole bunch of stuff and fling it out all over the universe.
After that, he decided to bring life to a whole bunch of creatures. Then he made a creature that looked a lot like himself and told him to a be the man for this whole planet.
Everything was perfect, because everything he does is perfect, because-you know-he’s perfect.
One day, not long after all this perfect stuff came to life. Something went wrong.
No one really knows exactly why it happened, but it happened. You’re probably asking yourself “What happened?” Well I (singular) am gonna tell you what happened.
The Incredible Talking Snake
One day, a guy (you know-the guy in charge of the planet) and his honey were out picking fruit together at a nudist colony. Suddenly, this guy’s honey notices a snake approaching her.
She turns to the snake and he begins to talk to her about a special fruit tree that the guy (plural) told her not to eat from. The talking snake tells her that the guy told her not to eat the fruit, because then she would know about good & evil. And if she knew about good & evil, then she would be like the guy(plural). She hesitated, because the guy(plural) told her she would die if she ate from the fruit tree. But the talking snake swore to God that it was a lie and that she wouldn’t die.
Deciding she had nothing to lose and that the fruit looked really tasty-she ate some. And guess what, it was tasty and she didn’t die. So she took some fruit to her guy (singular) and he ate some too. He didn’t die either….but they did became aware of good & evil and for some reason they realized that they were naked and decided to start sewing some fig leaves to cover their love parts.
Guy (Plural) Gets Ticked
The guy (plural) who is perfect, and made everything perfect, was pretty unhappy when he was taking an evening walk through the nudist camp and realized that the guy (singular) and his honey had eaten from his forbidden fruit tree. He got so pissed that he kicked the nudists out and then made sure that they, and their children, would be scourged with, death, misery, war, and disease for thousands of years. Every mother dying giving birth and every starving infant would be a reminder that the guy(plural) was still pretty ticked at how their ancestors had not listened to him. For thousands of years, the guy and his honey’s ancestors would beg the guy (plural) to save them from their misery-but he just couldn’t bring himself to forgive what had happened.
To be continued…..
Some of you might have read Mechanic Dude’s comments here at CA and picked up on the sad, sad story of his son’s experience with Young Life. Here is the whole story from the perspective of a grieving father who believes his son was pushed to suicide because of his involvement with Young Life.
This is the story my son told me before his death at just 17yrs old. I have left it raw and emotional. The Young Life Organization is a Christian youth ministry with a special focus on public schools. In fact they are practically non existent outside of the public school system and their elaborate summer camps, usually located in very scenic and expensive areas of the US.
My son attended a public high school in Reno NV. My first knowledge of YoungLife was when he asked if he could go out with a friend that had a car. He said that he was older and a very nice person from his high school. At just 15 yrs. old I was skeptical and wanted to meet this person. A very young looking person shows up at the door and assures me he is a safe driver and that they were just…
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This is a re-post of something I wrote for Reverie Slice last October. Just thought I’d post the full text here as well.
I think when we lose faith, faith in God, faith in an institution, a book, a person…it hurts. As Gerald Sittser has said, “All loss is loss”. No matter whether it’s a relationship, your cat, or a loved one. Losing something you loved hurts, including your faith in God.
For me, I’ve had to come to grips that in one sense, I will never totally be over the loss. I will always have a certain amount of unease between myself and believing friends and family. I will always feel the loss of community that was once church. I’ll never have what I once had, in quite the same way. It’s gone…forever.
Loss and hurt is something we tend to avoid at all costs. When I was younger, I imagined myself living to be a hundred years old. My thinking was, if I could eat right, take care of myself, and live a good godly life-then I could put the inevitable loss of life on the back burner.
My faith in God was another way to try to avoid the reality of loss. I mean, if God was just collecting all my friends and family for a big party in the afterlife, then why did I have to feel so bad about their deaths? Death wasn’t a time of sadness, but a mere interruption of our eternal existence that was to be reunited after my own death. I believed this with all my heart and even felt that showing emotions such as sadness or tears were signs of weakness and lack of faith. Needless to say, for someone who was very emotional, trying to keep any emotions hidden from sight was an enormous effort, and depressing at times. I didn’t feel safe crying, let alone crying in front of another human being.
I was only 18 years old when I got my first taste of death.
My Pop-Pop was a kind old likable soul. He wasn’t a central figure of my life, but he was someone I always loved and enjoyed being around. We would be at his home for almost every holiday and it was a great time to be together with all of my cousins.
Sometimes Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop would visit us on our Jersey Shore vacations and he would let me pepper him with questions about the good old days. It never occurred to me that someday Pop-Pop might get sick and die, it was if I couldn’t even believe that death would ever visit me and my loved ones. But like all gambling houses, the house always wins in the long run.
Sickness and the Smell of Death
I was just finishing up my first year of college when I got the news that my Pop-Pop was sick. He had suffered severe heat attacks but always recovered to the point of drinking and smoking again, this time would probably be no different…right?
My mom called me and asked if I wouldn’t mind staying the Mom-Mom to help her care for my Pop-Pop. I told her I wouldn’t mind and jumped in my car to travel the 15 minute drive to my grandparents home.
As I walked in the front door, I smelled it for the first time. That smell that can’t be washed off and disguised no longer how hard my Mom-mom tried. It was the smell of death.
Pretending Not to Notice
As I settled in for the weekend, I did what I always did when confronted with uncomfortable reality, I pretended. I told myself to ignore the smell and just act normal. I spent most of my time reading Utopia by Thomas Moore and being ready to help my Pop-Pop get out of bed to go to the bathroom or to go to the couch to watch TV.
At nights, I tried to sleep, but I was restless between trying to ignore the death in the air and being ready to help my Pop-pop get up and go to the bathroom.
On one of these trips he nearly fell over and I grabbed him and steadied him. He thanked me and sweetly told me how he would have fallen over if I hadn’t been there. I shrugged off the compliment and acted as if I did this sort of thin all the time. A couple of days later, my time of helping out was over and I went back to my life at college.
What I didn’t know was that I would never see Pop-Pop alive after those moments.
A Funeral Without Tears
Within a week from my time with Pop-Pop, he was dead. I don’t even remember the official cause of death. I didn’t cry, I didn’t do anything except ask for the essential info about the upcoming funeral. I told no one about the loss and I continued life for 2 or 3 days as if nothing had occurred.
On the day of the funeral, I traveled to my parents home and made the journey to the Catholic church 2 blocks over from where he used to live. It was a sunny, warm fall day and I sat through the mass, emotionless. Imagining to myself that somehow withholding my tears was an act of mature faith.
At one point I approached his open coffin, looked him in the face and stoically accepted that death was finally here. It was here to stay, but somehow faith would shield me from the grief. I turned and walked away as we prepared to carry Pop-Pop out of the church and drive him to his place in the earth.
At the gravesite, I played an instrumental guitar piece I had written as a farewell to a man who loved music, but never truly mastered any instrument. Most everyone was crying and hugging me. But I was stiff and cold towards the show of emotion.
It would be over a week before I actually cried and admitted the sense of loss that ached in my chest.
The Wonder Years
If you’re gasping at how emotionally immature I was, you’d be right to be surprised. The depth of my emotional immaturity was great. But I’ve overcome many my fears about loss and I’ve learned to live in the wonder of life itself, while knowing that life can not last forever.
So while loss hurts, I no longer deny that it hurts. I no longer feel obligated to keep my tears from flowing or my heart hidden and locked away for only God to see.
And loss of faith has been no different. It has had it’s share of hurt. But instead of denying it, I’ve learned to embrace the loss and let it teach me about what I really find true and worthy of my time.
And here’s what I’ve found….when you lose your faith, you regain a sane perspective about life and the one’s you love. I’ve found that I no longer feel an urgency about God and his will. Instead of striving to know God through church and quiet times, I strive to listen and love my wife and children. I look at them and know that I will not have them forever. But until that day when there is no strength in my bones and breath seems like a burden, I’m going to love and enjoy them for the wild, crazy people they are.
My hope is that when I leave this world, they will sit and weep, laugh, and curse me for the person I was and the person I wasn’t. I hope they will feel the freedom to let their emotions flow and say to each other the things that need to be said, lay me to rest, and say goodbye with deep affection.
In short, I’ve found that when you lose your faith, you get back your life.
A life that has no guarantees and can hurt like hell, but a life full of wonder, surprises, and adventures that can only be lived with eyes wide open, instead of a life spent holding back and waiting for death to truly begin to live.
I don’t believe in the power of prayer. The reason why…because of God’s lack of answer to prayer. In all honesty, God really does not answer prayer in the way it’s promised in the Bible. The Bible claims that God cares for you and me and wants to answer our prayers.
Matthew 21:22 plainly states
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
But this does not seem to be true. Millions of Christians have believed that God has the power to save and heal, have begged God to do so, and he has not done it. Babies have died, beloved parents and relatives have wasted unto death, while God ignores the prayers of those who have asked him to heal those whom they love.
I know many will object that maybe God had a different idea, or maybe we just didn’t believe enough. But I think, that deep down, even the most earnest Christian does not really believe in prayer as described in the Bible. They might think God will tip the scales a little more in their favor, maybe send a specialist doctor to save the day. But most have asked God to heal cancers, only to see the cancer prevail. Lord knows I’ve pleaded for babies that still went to the grave and left their parents in dismal grief, despite my many prayers.
Most Christians have lived long enough to know that prayer will not save the day…it may bring a little relief, kind of like meditation or silent centering, but it will not result in God’s miraculous intervention in the Biblical sense.
Where the Rubber Hits the Road
We’ve all heard of the Christian parents that withhold life saving medical treatment for their children. They trust God will heal, so they pray, wait, and watch as their children die or are seriously sickened from a condition that could have been prevented by human intervention. Instead, they obey the Bible’s teaching to seek God for all their needs. And in the end, many end up at a graveside, a court room, and some will even see the inside of a jail cell.
Because they took the Bible at it’s word about prayer.
But most Christians see this as extreme and would never do this to their children. When the rubber hits the road, we say a prayer, but we pay a visit to the doctor.
Worst Case Scenario
Imagine an even more agonizing situation.
Imagine you are a middle aged mom whose elementary schooler has not returned home on time. After ten minutes past the normal time your child arrives home, you wander next door to confirm that the bus is late. When the neighbor’s child answers the door, you begin to worry.
Your neighbor confirms that the bus arrived on time, but your child was not seen exiting the bus. A quick call to the school sends you into a panic. Your child was not seen at school all day. In fact, the voice mail you ignored this morning was your child’s school calling to confirm that your child was sick and at home.
You slump to the floor sobbing as your neighbor dials 911….
Pausing this imaginary nightmare, ask your self this question. Do you believe in the power of prayer to locate your child safely?
In other words, would you just call the prayer chain at church and trust God that he would lead you to your child? What if the detective at the police station said they weren’t going to send out a description of your child, instead the officers were going to pray and wait on God to lead them to your child…would you really be ok with that response?
Of course you wouldn’t…you would be doing everything in your power to bring your child home again. You would want to know that every stone in the county was being turned over in search of your child. You would talk to anyone willing to listen and get the word out that something more precious than gold is lost and needs to be found.
This scenario reveals that when it matters most, prayer does little to no good when facing real world problems. It doesn’t heal children who are sick. It doesn’t save relatives that are dying. It doesn’t bring children home who have been kidnapped or run away.
In short, prayer has no real power to change reality.
The weeks of waiting were filled with drama and boredom. Some hours were spent with tightened chests, as we watched and hoped that our son’s breathing would stabilize. At one point he caught another deadly virus and spent a few days dangling over death’s open mouth. The Doctors and nurses worked feverishly to help bring him back from the brink as we stood by, helpless to do anything except hope. The virus was eventually killed off and we went back to hoping that his lungs would open up.
Other times, we would retreat back home to be with our other kids and just try to relax. At least, as best as one could relax, knowing that your tiniest family member was still fighting for their life, miles from our home. I always felt guilty going home. What if he were to die while I was away from his bed? I had to push that thought aside or else I would have simply gone insane. I still had to sleep and I still had to try to provide some sort of semblance for the sake of my other children.
My kids were a real encouragement. They could sense something was wrong and would hug us and kiss us to try to cheer us up. Which it always did. Friends were also the real heroes as we went through our ordeal. So many meals brought over. So many trips to visit us at the hospital. One friend even took it upon herself to host one of my kid’s birthday party. It meant so much, that we could celebrate their birthday and make it special, without the burden of planning an event while frayed by exhaustion.
Super Bowl Reminder
During all of this, my wife and I took a few hours off to go home and watch the Super Bowl on our tiny TV set. We collapsed into the couch with some cheese steaks as we looked forward to the game. Not that we had a real interest in the game, since our Eagles had been knocked out a few weeks before by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oh well, at least it will be a fun escape from reality. And it was, until Joe Jurevicius caught a pass.
As Joe hauled in a catch, the announcers took the time to tell us that Joe’s wife had just had a baby prematurely. And that the baby was struggling to breath with the same condition as my son . The announcers wished Joe and his wife the best of luck and wondered out loud how hard it must be ,to be playing in the game of your life, while your young child is home struggling to live. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
It hit us like a ton of bricks, every time Joe caught the ball (and he was the leading receiver that night) we had lumps in our throats. I was now cheering for Joe, because he was doing what I was doing. Trying to live life while your heart is being stretched and tortured by something you can’t control. Joe and his Bucs easily beat the NY Giants that night. And we cheered for him, and hoped the best for both of our children.
Day of Reckoning
And then that day came. We received a call from the hospital. I was a little concerned, because over the past week we hadn’t had any calls, because my son had been mostly stable since fighting off his infection.
The nurse on the line said they had an update.
“Yes…” I answered.
“Today your son was removed from breathing support….he’s totally stable and breathing on his own!” the nurse replied.
Did I just hear that right? He’s breathing on his own. He’s alive and going to be ok. My emotions raced as I quickly got off the phone and rushed my wife down to the NICU.
It felt like a victory lap as we made another trip into the city. The sun was shining, we were smiling with anticipation and life all the sudden seemed like an eternal gift. After arriving, we climbed into the elevator and anxiously jumped out as the door opened to the NICU.
As we rounded the corner into my son’s room, we were greeted by a nurse who was getting ready to feed our son. He was wrapped in a blanket and a tiny hat. But the sight was strange, it was the first time in almost a month that he was not hooked up to a machine.
My wife quickly snapped him up and we cuddled him for hours. At one point a nurse asked if we would want to change his diaper. Who knew, that being able to change his diaper would seem like such a privilege! We felt nothing but joy and sheer relief. The waiting was over, my son was going to live!!!!!
Just A Little Bit Longer
Within 24 hours my son was completely stable and was transferred out of the NICU. He was transferred back to the hospital where he was born. He still had another 2 months of drawing down his pain medications so that he did not go into withdrawal. But the constant worry was over, and he continued to grow and recover.
During those months of recovery, we would take our other kids to visit him in the hospital. They were so enthralled by their newest sibling. I’ll never forget the one day a nurse brought him over to the observation window so my kids could wave hello. Their brother gave them a big smile and then fell asleep right before their curious eyes.
My one son asked me why the baby smiled. I told him it was because his baby brother thought he was cool. He then asked me if his baby brother thought he was cool, because he drank Gatorade. We all laughed hilariously. Kids do say the darndest things…
There’s still a little more to this story. But I plan to do that in another post soon. A kind of final thoughts, wrap up. But I do have one more story from this time period.
It was a Sunday morning and I had gone to the local bagel shop to grab some sandwiches and a morning paper. Our son was still in the hospital, but doing well and on the road to coming home. As I flipped through the paper I noticed a story about Joe Jurevicius. The wide receiver from the Super Bowl whose son had been born with same condition as mine. The story reported that Joe’s son had died. His son was one of the 10% that don’t ever come home. I teared up as I read it and wondered why my son had lived and his son had died?
As I read on, the interviewer asked Joe what was the hardest part of losing his tiny son. He replied, that the hardest part was when fans would approach him for an autograph for their children. The fact that others were able to share the Bucs Super Bowl victory with their children was a privilege that he would never know…and it left him numb.
I closed the paper and wiped away my tears. I finished my coffee and prepared to visit my son. My days of numbness had been brief and were ending. But my awareness of the frailty of life and the pain of loss would never leave me.
You don’t stare into the Abyss without it changing you forever.
You can read Part 1 here
After arriving home with my wife, we made hasty arrangements for our other children to be cared for. It was hard, explaining to our young children why their brother had not come home yet. We didn’t lie to them, but we didn’t want to overburden their little hearts. We said that their brother was sick and that he would be home as soon as he was better. They seemed concerned, but were soon back to playing with toys and excited that Grandma was going to be watching them for a while.
As soon as Grandma arrived, my wife and I jumped back into the car to be with our son. The hospital had called while we were home and reported that he was not doing well. On the drive down, my wife and I talked some, but mostly listened to some brooding songs from the latest Jars of Clay CD. It was cold outside and the slow, brooding, acoustic based music seemed to fit our emotional state.
We arrived back at the Children’s Hospital, parked the car and embarked to see our son. We also were scheduled to meet the head Doctor leading the effort to save our son.
The Gentle Doctor
As we stepped off the elevator, we were greeted and quickly escorted to our son’s bedside. I already felt like this had become my second home, having already spent the night at his side.
He was still alive, but barely. Not only was his oxygen low, but he was now fighting a “super bug” that was very deadly. His heart rate was up too high…..a nurse would adjust something and his heart rate would stabilize but his oxygen would dive. I could tell that a high level of concern was occupying the nurses tending him and his many machines.
After a few minutes, the head Doctor arrived to introduce himself. He was a middle aged man, dark skin, gentle voice with a slight Indian accent. As we talked, he very patiently explained that our son’s condition was very common. He then asked, in his gentle voice, if we wanted the good news or bad news first.
We both said “Good news…please!”.
The good news was that 90% of the children that have my son’s condition will eventually recover and the recovery will be 100%. In other words, he would go home and grow up and this event would have no long term effects on his health. We were relieved to hear it.
“But what’s the bad news?” I asked.
The Doctor lowered his voice a little and said,
“The bad news, is that the other 10% that do not recover, die. No exceptions, either he recovers fully or he will eventually die. At some point, if his body does not take over the proper intake of oxygen, the extra oxygen we are now using to keep him alive will saturate and poison him. It’s not like he can go home with a breathing machine. Either he recovers or he never goes home. Do you understand what I am saying?”
That is bad news. It’s devastating news. Even a 90% chance of life means a 10% chance of death. Oh God, Oh God……
We asked a few more questions. The Doctor was incredibly patient to answer us and explain what they were doing to help and why. On another level, this Doctor had just informed us that our son might die. But he was so gentle and reassuring. He exuded compassion and patience, and the fact that he had been so caring towards us made us both want to cry.
Over the next few days, I spent most of my waking hours at my son’s side. Some days he was stable, but other days were filled with machine alarms and nurses scrambling in and out of his room to sustain his life. I can’t even put into words the stress filled emotions that swarmed us in those moments.
When my wife and I weren’t in his room, we would wander the large hospital campus. It was huge, filled with children facing the most serious medical conditions. The entry way was filled with an amazing display of colors and children’s artwork. It reminded me of the sort of thing you’d see at the entrance of a children’s museum. But there was a certain amount of dread and sadness that filled the air. You’d see families, silently strolling with downcast faces. Children in wheel chairs, others walking but with no hair and a pained expression. Sometimes uncontrollable weeping was heard, but not as often as I expected. Places like this shouldn’t have to exist.
Other times, my wife and I would escape to a nearby sandwich shop and just talk. We’d talk about the what ifs. What if he doesn’t get better? What will we do if he dies? What will I say to our kids? What if my heart never recovers? What if?
The waiting was the hardest part. Waiting to see him again. Waiting to touch him and sing him another song. Waiting to hear if the new treatment was working. Waiting to hear if they had decided on a blood transfusion. Wait, wait, wait. There was nothing we could do, but wait. So we did.
Days turned into a weeks. Weeks of life on hold. Weeks of little sleep and lots of coffee. Weeks of tears and of friends simply loving us, by being there and sharing the time as we waited.
There was nothing we could do, but wait. So we did.