I pulled the curtain aside and peered hesitantly into the quiet hospice room, my eyes fixing on the figure lying in the bed. Confused, I turned back to my parents who were with me and asked, “Is…this her?”
“Yeah, that’s her.”
A gasp escaped my lips and I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe this was my friend; my strong, capable, mother-of-seven friend whose name means ‘life’.
I had just come back from overseas. While I was away, the dreaded disease – the one she’d beaten once before – had come back with a vengeance, the treatment making her almost unrecognisable. Unrelenting, it was slowly stealing her life away.
My faith was shaken and fear gripped my heart as I came face-to-face with the reality of what cancer was doing to my dear friend. I saw her pain, I saw what hung in the balance, and my heart broke.
The Lord who heals
I knew God could heal her. He is Jehovah-Rapha; the Lord Who Heals. I’ve heard and witnessed countless stories of miraculous healing. I knew her sickness wasn’t God’s design or intention for her. This was a disease from the pit of hell, not the hand of a loving Father, the Giver of Life.
So over the coming months, I held out my little candle of hope, a flickering flame of faith, to the God I knew had the power to heal. Along with many others, we resolutely held out our candles, their light piercing the darkness that threatened to overwhelm us with fear and despair.
Sitting beside her bed on my visits, I pushed fear and doubt aside, blinked back tears, and spoke with as much hope and faith as I could muster. We prayed, laughed and cried together.
But even in my doubt, I couldn’t imagine anything other than Zoe getting better and going home to her family. What could bring more glory to God? What could be a better story to show God’s goodness to an unbelieving world?
This isn’t the ending I prayed for
Early last year after months of crying out in prayer, clinging to faith and believing for a good end to the story, we lost our Zoe. Mother to 7 beautiful children, wife to an adoring husband, beloved daughter, treasured sister, dear friend to many.
For a long time, I felt unable to process the grief. At first I thought it was because I was afraid of dealing with the pain. Eventually I realised it was the questions tied intimately to the grief that I was afraid of.
Why? Why did it end like this? Why didn’t God answer our prayers? How did He allow this to happen? Does God really desire to heal the sick? How does this ending fit with God being ‘good’? Is there even any point praying, if God’s ultimate plan will unfold no matter what?
I began feeling powerless, struggling to pray with any sense of hope or conviction. Almost without realising, I started adopting a ‘whatever will be will be’ mentality.
All the unanswered prayers, painful endings and injustices around me clamoured for my attention, hurling their questions like fiery darts.
Hopelessness weighed heavy on me.
Finally, the dissatisfaction in my heart forced me to bring my questions out of hiding. The dam of silence broke. Questions and tears came tumbling out in torrents at the feet of my King.
I began wrestling. I wrestled to find truth, wrestled to understand the heart of God, wrestled with His promises and wrestled with my pain.
As I wrestled, I learnt faith was never meant to fit into neat little boxes of answered questions and perfect understanding. I couldn’t just go through a list of topics, find the answers, tick the boxes and move on.
It felt like every time I came to a conclusion, God would show me another perspective, another aspect of His truth that made me rethink everything. The more I wrestled with God in Scripture, prayer and community, the more truths I found were held in tension. But always, He led me to hope.
Life is fragile, God is not
I don’t have all the answers. I still often struggle to see God’s goodness in the midst of a storm or when the ending to a story isn’t what I wanted. I still just want my friend back.
But in entering into the pain and wrestling with God during these dark seasons, His love remains constant. His unchanging, always faithful, divinely good nature keeps softening my heart and winning me over.
God never intended his children to encounter suffering, but He understands it intimately. We live in a broken, dying world, but in the midst, He is with us.
The reward of our suffering, if we allow, is an intimacy and a growing into His likeness more profound than we can experience anywhere else. He is close to the broken-hearted.
So I hold fast to Jesus. I choose Him, even when I don’t understand what He’s doing, even when I naively think I could write a better ending.
I’ll pray for the miracles and the breakthroughs and believe He will come through. But even if not, He is still good. Even if not, He is with me, and He is more than enough.
Knowing Him is our greatest gift. Belonging to Him and experiencing the depths of His love is of more value than any other miracle we could ask for. Life is fragile, but He is not.
Bonnie loves all things old-fashioned, travelling, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others.
Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html
Bonnie loves travelling to experience and understand new cultures, beautiful things (especially flowers), coffee with friends and being with her family. She deeply values authenticity and is passionate about building meaningful community where people feel a sense of belonging and genuine love. Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html