ATHY ISAACS died last year from cancer. She was my wife, and her death has changed me in ways too difficult to describe. It has forced dark moments of reflection upon me. My faith is challenged in new ways. Life has been hard.
For a moment, imagine asking God for a miracle that does not come. You believe God will come to your rescue, but instead you are left to a fate far different than you hoped.
I openly admit I cannot figure out why God did not heal Kathy. I am sure it was not a lack of prayer. Everywhere I went, people reminded me they were praying for her. A “Prayer for Kathy” Facebook page had more than 4,000 people joined in daily prayer for her. It seemed everyone was praying for Kathy. No one will convince me our miracle did not come because we did not pray and believe. We did our best, but in the end . . . she died.
Sometimes God’s answer is something different than we desired. Frustrated by our inability to figure God out, we are left with unresolved emotions and questions with no answers. We are not the first in our species to experience this.
The biblical Job was “perfect and upright” (Job 1:1). So one might expect this man to have some insight to God’s way of thinking. Yet, when disaster came, Job was at a complete loss. When God got through responding to the second-guessing of Job and his comforters, Job was left with a meek apology: “God, I was stupid to think I could outthink You. Forgive me.”
In the end, God graciously restored to Job all that was lost, even giving him new children to replace the ones killed at the beginning. It did not erase the pain of the former loss, and I am confident the experience marked Job’s life in much the same way loss marks ours. However, there is blessing found in the closing moments of the story: “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (42:12 NKJV).
There is a new song coming for God’s suffering children. God is not unkind to forget all that you have been through, and He is faithful (see Heb. 6:10). Don’t lose hope—trust in God. He will give joy to your saddened heart.
Faith Is Not Faith Until It Is Tested
The biblical definition of faith is having “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Heb. 11:1 NLT). Without tests and trials of life, we would have no laboratory to evaluate, learn, and understand the blessedness of God’s faithfulness and promises. The larger story of your life and mine is the challenges—those moments when all we believe is pressed and tested to the limits. In those moments we discover something that God already knew—in Him, we are stronger than we imagined!
Either we believe in Him no matter what, or we choose to walk with God conditionally. So where is the answer we can firmly hold? It is our Almighty God, who is more capable than we will ever need. He provides His comfort for our sorrow, His joy for our pain; and despite how we may feel, we know we are secure in His love. Throughout Kathy’s journey, we often quoted, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10 NKJV). Like those caught in an unexpected storm, we run to a place of covering and seek shelter. He is that shelter.
Knowing “Why” Will Not Change Anything You Are Going Through
On a single day, Job’s whole life was turned upside down and there was no explanation. When the day was over, Job was without his children, all his earthly possessions were gone, and he was about to lose his good health. The devastating impact of it all is more than we can imagine, and Job sought answers. In the conclusion, rather than debate the worth of the trial, God simply showed Himself to Job. In the revelation, Job saw God not as an equal who must explain Himself, but as One who is wise enough to know the birth cycles of the animal kingdom and the timing of lightning and rain. Such a God can be trusted to bring us through any situation.
You will never convince me that Job would not want to have each of his children back—to hold them and to return to times when life was easier. However, God gave Job something far more. Instead of looking at what he lost, look at what Job gained from his experience. While Job lost so much, in the end he gained so much; he gained a revelation of God he had never known before. Job acknowledged to the Lord, “I know that You can do all things” (42:2 NASB).
We may not realize it, but the greatest gift we could ever have, the one that would make us happier than any other, is to know God—to actually experience Him. Job got that. We may not see it now, but our gains are greater than our losses because God ensures it. This is not to deny that we do lose some precious things along the way, and the losses are deep and leave forever scars—but in time, God replaces our pain with so much more that helps us.
Don’t Demand Heaven Now
This life is not heaven nor should we expect it to be. Our heaven is coming. Until then, we wait and allow God’s process in us to be completed. The Scriptures teach us that if we are unwilling to wait for heaven but instead demand our eternal happiness here and now, “we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19 NIV).
Our present life requires that we wait on God in ways that test our resolve and patience. I am learning that worship and waiting go hand in hand with God. In waiting, God is making me to become something. If I view waiting as just “down time” until I get what I want, I miss the point of waiting. Waiting with God is not about deferring our desires but about building something in us eternal and valuable. The process of becoming a life dedicated for His glory and honor requires waiting. Waiting creates space for God to do something holy and sacred in us. In fact, waiting is a form of worshiping God—a surrender of my impulsive “have it my way” attitude to His larger “I know what I am going to do in you” ability.
Now I see more clearly that worship and waiting are not about finding answers, but finding God who is the answer to all my questions. Worship allows me a deeper relationship with God and His love, which heals me. Only in worship can I see God in ways that help me know that He is big enough and loving enough to handle whatever my pressing need.
My life is now marked by the tragedy of Kathy’s death. It is not easy to shake the feelings of loss and disappointment for what will not be happening in the future. My family’s plans and expectations have taken an irreplaceable hit. So, what is to be the end of these dreams? They are given to this amazing God with faith toward a new future. This is a faith that the dreams and designs He has for me and my children going forward make sense perhaps only to Him at this time, and that is all right.
I am learning in new ways now to transition my dreams into His hands and to accept the greater hope of His promise: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11 NLT).
Excerpted from Life Is Harder Than We Thought (Derek Press), available at pathwaybookstore.com and www.forwardleadership.org.
William E. (Bill) Isaacs resides in Akron, Ohio, and serves as administrative bishop for the Church of God in Ohio.