On May 31st, 2012, our daughter-in-law, Jennifer, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

You hear people talk about getting bad news and not being able to breathe. I experienced that that afternoon, as we listened on speakerphone to the words from the surgeon.  It literally felt as if something had sucked all the air out of the room.

And I went through a range of emotions that many of you are familiar with –

“I can’t believe this.”

“Lord, after trying to be faithful to you all these years….”

At some level, each of those emotions had a question attached: “Why?”

“Why this? Why us? Why Jen?”

Now, there is a part of me that wants to kick myself – I KNOW that I don’t follow Jesus in order to be blessed. I KNOW that Christian faith is not a rabbit’s foot to ward off bad luck. I KNOW there is so much about life which I don’t know.

But, I still wrestle with the question – “WHY?”

I am not alone, am I?

I have heard that question from the side of a hospital bed, and I have heard it in my study. I have heard it in a surgical waiting room, and when I have run into someone in the grocery aisle. “Why?”

“Why me? Why him? Why her? Why this?”

We are all faced with suffering, and a dark and broken world.

In just such a world, 12 who were knew to this thing of faith in Jesus,

Asked the same question, “Why?”

Here is the answer they received…

John 9: As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Do you hear the “why?” in their question? This man is born into a dark world. He has never seen a sunrise or sunset. He has never seen the blue eyes of his niece. He has never seen the crocuses in bloom.

For many in that day, where there is suffering, there must be sin. The theology was bad, but it was common. It still is today. We live in a sin-infested universe. And we are well-acquainted with sin’s results.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

While we often look for a culprit, someone to blame, and often choose the sufferer, Jesus does no such thing. NEITHER is to blame, he says. Our tendency would then be to say, “It must be the will of God.” In other words, since we can’t blame him, or his parents, let’s blame God! But, Jesus reminds us this is not of God. Jesus is the light of the world. He does the work of light. So, while God didn’t do this, God will certainly use this.

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

The man does not ask for help. Perhaps it is Jesus’ compassion that is the catalyst for the healing. Maybe it is the question of the disciples. We are not told which. But the miraculous change is obvious. The Light of the World has lit up the darkness of this man’s life.

So, what’s the point? How does Jesus answer the question:

“Is this the will of God?”

No phrase, in my opinion, has done more damage,

caused greater bitterness,

produced more confusion than this one: The Will of God.

Here is what I believe you and I need to know FIRST:

The will of God is NOT, never has been, and never will be,

the evil, illness, or brokenness of our world.

Dr. Leslie Weatherhead was a pastor in Great Britain during World War II. He wrote about his conversation with a Medical Doctor who was fighting to save his wife’s life.  The doctor’s wife finally died, and his comment was, “This must be the Will of God.” Weatherhead, who knew this man well, asked him, “Were you, then, fighting against the will of God by trying to save her life? “

At another time, a mother came to him whose son had recently been killed in air raid. She said, “It is the Will of God.”

Weatherhead refused to call such terrible events the will of God. He said you can call it the will of the enemy, or the will of Hitler, or even the will of evil. But it is NOT the will of God.

For me, his most memorable story was of a friend whose son died of cholera.

This friend, too, indicated, “It must be the will of God.”

Weatherhead could not allow that statement to stand. He responded, “Suppose a terrible person crept in to your home in the middle of the night, and placed a cholera-laced cloth over the mouth and nose of your sleeping child, would you call such a thing the will of God?”

His friend answered, “That’s absurd. I would instantly kill any person who tried to do such a thing. What kind of monster would commit so horrible an act?”

To that, Weatherhead gently asked, “Is that not what you have just accused God of doing to your daughter?”

He went on to say that what happened may be the result of mass ignorance, or human sin, but it is not the will of God. You cannot identify something as will of God for which a man would be jailed or locked up in a mental hospital if they were to commit such an act.

In Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012, a man shot and killed 12 people and wounded another 58.  Whether such a person is mentally ill or purely evil, such an action, and the results of it, are not the will of God.

In my next post I will talk about what IS the will of God.

But, for now, here is why this matters:

Not understanding what is the will of God produces bitterness.

Not understanding what is the will of God leads to confusion.

Not understanding what is the will of God leaves us wounded.

Before the storm is raging is the time to put down the anchor of faith.

When the storm hits is too late.

On Palm Sunday, 1994, a tornado struck the town of Piedmont, Alabama and the Goshen United Methodist Church. The storm killed Hannah, the 4-year-old  daughter of  United Methodist pastors Dale and Kelli Clem. Kelli answers the question “why” with these words: “I don’t think we’ll ever have an answer,” said Clem. “I don’t think God chooses a child to die. It doesn’t work that way. Tornadoes happen.

“I don’t blame God.”

“If something like this ever happens to you — God forbid — God will help you through it,” Clem said.

“God is on the picking-up-the-pieces side of things.”

Sure, something in us asks: Is this the will of God?

The answer is: No, it is NOT the will of God.

I will show you what IS God’s will in the next post.

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