God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”
Our lives began to fall apart when my daughter took her life,” the woman told me during a break in the conference we were both attending. “And then our second daughter spiraled into depression and started to ‘self-harm.’ After several months we discovered the reason why: While my husband and I were missionaries in Indonesia, two of our three children had been sexually abused at a mission-run school. We had given our lives to serve God. . . . Why didn’t He protect us?” I would hear similar stories at that conference—people who felt betrayed by God.
As any couple trying to have a child knows, every 28 days you’re looking for signs of success. For many couples, this expectation is met with disappointment for a few months until conception occurs. But for others, this monthly cycle of raised and dashed hopes can last for years. Proverbs 13:12 describes such an experience well: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
Some years ago, I had a sobering epiphany regarding my faith. After a decade of ministry, I realized that I didn’t really know God very well. Yes, I knew there was a God and that He was good and holy. I knew that Jesus had died for my sins. But did I really know God’s character well? His personality? Not very deeply.
The year 2013 had hardly begun before I felt as if I needed a vacation. A house renovation, a book launch, a trip to Ethiopia, and two speaking trips to Australia had left the year with little free space. In the midst of the busyness, I picked up a book one night and found this delightful paraphrase of Psalm 23:1-6 by Japanese poet Toki Miyashina:
I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. “Much preaching about women dressing modestly has been destructive,” she said, “because it subtly places the blame for men’s lust on women. Men should take responsibility for their lust, and women should be free to wear what they want.” My friend’s words got me thinking.
If you’ve ever experienced prolonged disappointment or pain, you know it can feel like you’re in the “wilderness”—a barren place where you never seem to reach the much-hoped-for “Promised Land.”
My wife and I were visiting the British Museum last year when we came across a group of people in the Assyrian gallery listening to a man who we thought was a museum tour guide. “This is the Black Obelisk,” he said, pointing to a statue. “It records the triumphs of Shalmaneser III in the ninth century BC. This ruler is mentioned in 2 Kings chapter 8, and if you look closely, just here, you’ll see a carving of the Israelites paying him tribute.”
The late film director Krzysztof Kieslowski was once interviewing actors for a film. During an interview, a young actress described to him how she’d go out and walk the streets of Paris when she felt sad.