Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where Was God?

I normally don't go to the sidewalks of the abortion mill as a pro-life counselor on Wednesday, but I did this week. It was not an easy day, by any stretch of the imagination, but I am glad I went because I learned some very important lessons about grief, and about God.

A car zoomed by me, and pulled into the abortion mill lot. A young woman turned around as she left her car when I called out to her, and instantly began walking towards us. My heart swelled because when they approach us, it means we sometimes have a prayer of talking them into choosing life for their baby. 'Walking' is not quite accurate, however. She stomped over.
"I'm not here for an abortion," she snapped.
"That's all they do here," I said.
"I don't have insurance and this is the only place that will do a low-cost D and C. I had a miscarriage."
"Would you like a second opinion on our free ultrasound?" I asked. The pro-life RV with the mobile ultrasound unit was parked right behind me.
 One of the other counselors told her a second opinion on the free ultrasound was a good idea, just in case the first opinion was incorrect. We've had cases where people thought they miscarried and the ultrasound showed they did not. Once in the abortion mill, they would do an abortion even if the baby was still there. We know that to be the case because of others who have left the mill after being told the baby was miscarried, only to then come on our ultrasound, which showed the baby still there and alive!
"No," spat the woman,"I know that I miscarried. This is my third miscarriage. Tell me, where was God then?"

We did not answer. It was obvious the woman was in a great deal of emotional pain and lashing out in anger.  I wanted to tell her that God was there in the stars, and the flowers, and the sunsets, and love of others... and in the fact that life exists at all. I wanted to tell her that God was on the cross in agony bearing the penalty of the sins of all humankind. I wanted to tell her that God was there in the strangers on the sidewalk that day who ached for her pain and wished they could erase it. But it all seemed glib in the face of her obvious suffering.

So we said nothing, except to acknowledge that we understood she must be in great pain and we could give her the phone numbers of counselors who had been through multiple miscarriages themselves.

She vanished into the abortion mill and I berated myself, wishing I would've had an answer for her. Sometimes, my friend and fellow counselor told me, the best answer is silence. If we had argued with her, it might have just made her angrier. She told me we had left the door open to further discussion, and had said nothing to anger her more. Perhaps, she would still speak with us and we could yet help her.

She came out a few minutes later, got in her car and drove down the driveway. We were waiting with pamphlets that deal with grief. I was shocked when she stopped and rolled down her window. She no longer looked angry or defiant. Just very sad.

We told her we wanted her to know that we were very sorry for her situation and that we would pray for her. I gave her my name and number, along with the pamphlet, and told her I would gladly connect her with someone she could talk to who has been in her situation. My friend said that the book that we gave her might give her some ideas about where to seek counseling. She sighed sadly and said, "I don't know if counseling is what I need." She thanked us and drove away. I was very sad for her, but felt blessed for the privilege to pray for her, and to let her know she was not alone in her grief.

Another drama had been played out that day. A father brought his 16-year-old girl in for an abortion. She had been raped by a much older man. The father was pro-life, and begged his daughter not to get the abortion. He promised he would raise the child himself. But he left the decision up to the 16-year-old. Despite his efforts to convince her, she still insisted she wanted to go through with the abortion. As his daughter was led to the back room, the father went around the whole waiting room, telling every mother there that they needed to leave, that what they were doing was wrong and they needed to walk out of there now. "Why are you here?" he asked one. The woman told him she was a dancer, and couldn't have a baby or she would lose her job. "Then get a different job!" he cried, "And don't kill your baby." She got up and left the abortion mill! The staff kicked the man out, seeing their bottom line walking out the door.

( Later, as the abortion doctor concluded his grisly work for the day, the car with the dancer returned, picked up a woman, and left again. She may have been a driver for a friend who had the abortion or perhaps they both had been there for abortions. We will never know, but God does...) Nonetheless, we were inspired by the heart of a man who could not save his grandchild, but would try to save others from the horror of abortion even in the midst of his own grief and despair.

While we waited to see the outcome of the terrible saga of the 16-year-old, one couple left and stopped to tell us that they had decided not to do the abortion. We were overjoyed as they took our literature, smiling and relieved. One baby saved, maybe even two, but it was such a hard day.

Where was God? It is an old question. If God is real, and God loves us, why does evil exist? Why is there so much pain and suffering?

Where was God when that sixteen-year-old child was raped? Where was God when the woman who longs for a baby had three miscarriages? I thought about that all afternoon. I have seen God in so many miracles in my life. And I've seen Him in very hard situations where the knowledge that He was there and heaven was real helped me. But where was God when all those terrible things were happening that He could have stopped if He chose to do so?

I can't answer that.

I know He's there and I know He cares or He wouldn't have sent Jesus. I know that the pain of the world can have the effect of making us long desperately for something other than this world. It can draw us closer to Him, if we recognize the world has nothing to offer in comparison. Or, it can make us pull away in bitterness and blame. I also know since God allows suffering, it must be necessary. As Charles Spurgeon said, "Easy roads make sleepy travelers." When Job cried out to God, he is reminded: Why do you contend against God, saying, “He will answer none of my words” ? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though people do not perceive it.  (Job 33:13-14) Perhaps God is speaking in the suffering, in a way we would not hear or respond to through any other means.

C.S. Lewis said that pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world. If all this world offered was perfection and happiness without God, why would anyone ever need to seek God? Is our purpose here happiness...or is it something more important? I know God is not cruel or capricious. The stunning beauty, order, and balance of our unlikely planet is evidence enough of that, not to mention the sacrifice He made on the cross for us. If God loves us, and I believe with all my heart He does, then our happiness is not what we most need, and it is a kindness showing us.

Suffering uncovers what really matters to us. It makes us stop and reevaluate the direction of our lives and our hearts. It can mature us, and give us empathy for others. It can humble proud hearts, and lead us to repentance. It can sensitize us to how we have hurt others or have grieved God himself. It can make us realize our dependence on God, and make us seek Him more ardently. Suffering can make us take our eyes off of ourselves in this world, and place them on our relationship with God in eternity. Suffering can make us grateful for what we have. It can make us less complacent about the blessings that are present even in the face of great loss. It can make us lose our grip on the things that can be taken away to grasp that which we can never lose. Can we know joy fully if we don't know sorrow? I don't think we can.

So where was God? He was right here. I know He is here and I know He cares. But sometimes my silence is the best answer for now, trusting God is speaking to the broken-hearted.

Romans 5:3-5 

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1 Peter 5:10

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

James 1:2-4 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 8:18 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

1 Peter 4:12-19 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

John 16:33 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

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