I'm still searching for answers. What purpose do suffering and death serve? It is the deep moan of a cello reverberating through my heart, sighing out a rumbling question as this new experience, this living with cancer business, draws it's bow across the strings of my soul. I see the circle of life all around me, in the Wisconsin spring. Out of last summer's leaves and grasses, now dead and rotten, burst a new vista of johnny jump-ups and lily shoots and iris stalks. The manure from the winter milkings spread on the field across the road is still rich with life, and the crows pick happily in the fecund new soil from dawn till dusk. Where slippery black mold formed on the chilled forest floor in November now lies light, dusty soil, formed out of the death of last autumn's flaming maple glory. From death comes life, and from life comes death. It circles and hums all around me and from it resounds those aching questions: why cancer at 29? Why would any baby, anywhere, have Down syndrome? Why do children die in Eastern European orphan institutions while they grow fat on fast food and video games here? Why all this unevenness, and unfairness, and unhappiness?
I found an answer, for the moment, half way through Romans, one of my pet books of the Bible. Romans and Hebrews read like a great debate: all the big questions get asked, and there is a logical response in almost lawyer-like exposition.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)
...subjected to futility...
Useless. Frivolous. Helpless. That's what we see all around us...things that don't work right; things that are broken; things that are malfunctioning. Things that seem to be completely without purpose or plan.
This assures me that God does not hand down suffering and brokenness like a cruel father bent on teaching His children painful, necessary lessons.
...but because of Him who subjected it, in hope...
There is a reason behind all of this. Cancer isn't a cruel punishment and it's not a turn of bad luck that struck randomly, either. It was designed with hope by a tender, merciful God who bends to this earth and calls softly to each of our hearts.
...will be set free from its bondage to corruption...
The purpose of it all is so stunningly clear. We suffer to be set free. Just as Jesus suffered to set us free. Suffering is what brings me to a place of need. Suffering is what teaches my heart humility and opens my eyes to the real purpose behind it all. Only in infinite grace and wisdom would the Creator set this world spinning in such a way that even the bad things, evil things, despicable things, and painful things can be turned into beauty and treasure and glory. When I take the smudged, smoking embers of the physical beauty of the body He gave me and turn the very fire of my pain into glory for His name, what is ugly becomes beautiful. Dust becomes diamonds, agony becomes emeralds, rags become rubies. For I have obtained the freedom of the glory of the children of God!
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:22-28)
My hands hold safely to my dreams
Clutching tightly not one has fallen.
So many years I’ve shaped each one
Reflecting my heart, showing who I am.
Now you’re asking me to show
What I’m holding Oh so tightly.
Can’t open my hand; can’t let go
Does it matter?
Should I show you?
Can’t you let me go?
You whisper gently
You say I will be free
I know but can’t you see
My dreams are me, My dreams are me
Say you have a plan for me
And that you want the best for my life.
Told me the world has yet to see
What you can do with one
That’s committed to your call.
I know of course what I should do
That I can’t hold these dreams forever.
But if I give them now to you
Will you take them
Or can I dream again?