God and the natural world

I remember when a girl down the street from me died.

Her name was Andi. She was only 3 years older than me and a senior in my high school. I was friends with her younger brother, who would get together and talk about video games and cross-country running with my other good friend. It was a terrible shock to our small rural neighborhood. She lived with her parents and her brother in a renovated farmhouse, and our whole neighborhood, who were mostly Christian, got together at her house to express their grief with the family. One neighbor tried to comfort the parents by saying that God was in this somehow, and I remember my father coming home upset by that comment and told me so. “You should never say such a thing, he told me – who knows that stuff… it’s better just to cry with them and just shut up.” I was too young and stupid to understand, but I never forgot what he said. Her parents moved away not too long after and we never saw them again.

Andi was really popular at school. She was not popular in the sense that she was good looking and rich, but in the sense that people of all clicks and groups liked her for real. Of all people I knew then, she never deserved to die so young with so much life and potential. Another classmate of hers had trouble going back to high school for a while because she didn’t know how to cope with such unfair tragedy. We were all shocked. She died of some strange and quickly fatal disease, I think it was leukemia but I don’t remember.

Not long after this, another good friend of mine, Phillip, died in a terrible car accident. I can remember the details of the story, but it was related to bad road conditions. He was not coping with high school very well, and was often being treated in mental institutions. Another friend of mine also stopped coming to school. I found out later that he suffered so bad from depression that he had to be taken out of school and taken to a home or something. My parents told me I should go to Phillip’s funeral, but I was too scared and shook up. Janson never made it past his sophomore year. I miss Phillip and Janson and I still think about them.

I remember when my grandfather started doing badly. One thanksgiving night, I was sleeping on the couch, and he came down and knelt beside me and told me that he was going to die. He was crying and he seemed a little scared when he talked. He told me many things, but he said that his time was coming soon. His time did come soon. Not long after, his cancer took its full course regardless of our prayers, and I watched him die with the rest of our family at his bedside at home. I remember when he stopped breathing – I was too scared to move – for some reason I was right by his head when it happened. My dad just grabbed me and hugged me and cried heavily. I was shaking so badly and so scared I didn’t know what to do… whether to run away or hide or crawl under a rock and die myself. Why did such a good man have to die? I have never seen so many people at his funeral. He was an incredible man. I come from a family of incredible men, of whom I am the least. My father told me that something in you changes permanently when your father dies. He did change. He was a different person afterwards. My other grandmother died not too long after, also from a painful form of cancer, but she got to see me graduate from college. Neither one ever saw me get married, which my grandfather told me he wanted very much to see.

Ever since my father was 25, he has suffered from a strange lung disease that is usually fatal, but he has been able to stay alive through heavy doses of prednezone and other heavy-duty antibiotics that have serious side effects, like the skin on his legs becoming so thin that it tears off if he bumps things so he must wear heavy socks and soccer shin guards. Lately, he has been on oxygen and takes frequent trips to the emergency room (about 2 per month) when his lungs give out on him, and we are never quite sure if he is going to make it. I pray constantly for him. He has his ups and downs, but he is never well. Before long, his unknown disease transforms into something else, and he never seems to fully recover, but is always sick. Somehow, through a miracle, he is still alive. It’s been a long time since he’s been able to visit me because he’s too sick to travel very far from home. I bought a nice chair for him whenever he can come up – he can only sleep in really comfortable chairs because of his lungs. I’m hoping he can come visit sometime.

I almost lost my brother too.

After a bad breakup with his girlfriend, my brother couldn’t cope too well. He dropped out of collage and drifted in and out of home. We were not sure if he would ever come back. He cut himself with razorblades and I think had some drug problems. After he tried to commit suicide numerous times by cutting his wrists, he left home. Days went by and my parents didn’t know where he was. He finally came back home, and my parents convinced him to seek help and he went into intensive care at a local hospital. They put him on powerful anti-depressants. I remember asking my parents why they did that, and they said they just wanted to make sure would make it through, and that something was terribly wrong. I thought taking away a person’s ability to think clearly was a bad idea, but finally, I just decided I didn’t know what to think anymore. But one night in the hospital, my brother decided to give God another shot. That same night a demon walked into Mom’s bedroom (Dad was too sick to go upstairs at the time) and laid down in bed with her. It was very angry. She was terrified, and prayed, and it went away. My sick demonic dreams finally stopped haunting me. My brother pulled through, and he’s doing well now. He’s now married with a beautiful little baby girl. I’m sorry if this is unbelievable. I wouldn’t believe it either if I came from a different family and a different background.

And were is God in all this? Where was His intervention in the lives of people who needed Him? Why did Andi die? Why did Phillip never make it? What part of their minds couldn’t heal because of their depression? Why was the road slippery that night when he took that fatal turn? God saved me tons of times from bad accidents. Why where they depressed? Why couldn’t I help them with my prayers? Why has my mind been clear as a bell? Why have I never been sick more than a flu?

My father’s warning rings deep within my memory. I will never speak for others, but only from my own experience. I never seemed to blame God for these things. I don’t know why or how to explain this, but each time, I felt God was very much a part of things, and grieving right along with us like a brother or sister rather than looking down at us like some distant, uncaring, non-acting deity. While He was here on earth, He tried His best to heal people from sickness. He raised people from the dead if you believe the stories about Him. In the end, He was tortured to death. Somehow, in some way, something went wrong with the natural world. Our brains can malfunction, diseases can overtake us and kill us. There might be some spiritual evil side to things, which I hate to even bring up here had it not been for things I’ve seen and heard, that further confuses things – that fine line between the spiritual and the physical that I struggle with understanding. I feel things of the mind are more scientifically explained, but from what I’ve seen, I no longer know for 100% sure.

All I know is when my father is in the hospital, or when my grandfather died, God was there grieving with us. There was a sense of peace in that. God is powerfully with us no matter what the outcome. Why does it happen? I don’t know. I know God can’t protect everyone whenever someone falls off a cliff or gets in a car accident or gets a fatal disease so that no one will ever get seriously hurt or injured and thus trip the balance of free-will existing in the world, but I don’t see why He couldn’t heal my grandfather from his cancer and let him live a little longer, at least to let him see me get married and see my baby girl. There must be some great reason, but I guess for now I can’t know. I do not know a lot of things, so I believe that there is more to life than I currently understand, so there is room in my mind to accept this.

Leave a Reply