There is air conditioning in my own home, and as I sit here, believe it or not at age 71, not one pain in my body as I record this.
But when I look at the cross, I conclude either this world is horrible, horrible, horrible — in the bondage of eternally damning sin — or the death of the Son of God was a wild overreaction or a myth.
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It’s a real question, and you have the right to ask it.
Here are my two last things that are on my heart to say.
Kathy, let it sink in right now that what you have been through and what Josiah went through is in my heart here in Minneapolis in 2017, in my mouth of praise, and on this podcast reverberating out to thousands around the world. They lead praise to the glory of the grace of God in and through your family. Then, Kathy, let me draw out an implication from something the apostle Paul said that you are very familiar with but maybe haven’t thought of in quite this way. So, Kathy, we are already deep into answering your all-important question — namely, Can you help me see what it looks like or feels like to be able to say, “Thank you” for this kind of suffering?
You remember that he reminded the Thessalonians about deceased believers and the second coming. A continuing activity, which I think means that when you say that the grief has frequently felt unbearable, and now just over two years later, it still comes crashing in waves that at times feel impossible to withstand, Paul would know exactly what you mean. I think he would say, “I spoke these words for that grief as well.” You will be grieving Josiah’s death the rest of your life. God’s strange timing in taking your precious son does not mean that this was not a massive loss.
Suppose the doctor can assure you — I know this is imaginary, but let’s do it — suppose the doctor can assure you that if you endure these treatments, you will be cancer free. You lose your hair, you break out in horrible rashes, you experience nausea most of the day week after week, your mind is confused, you are so weak you can scarcely drag yourself through the day, your face changes color, you look like you are almost dead already, and you are supposed to be thankful for this treatment.
At first, that feeling of thankfulness is simply the emotional confidence you have in the doctor’s promise — not much more.
Well, God be praised, it was not an overreaction, and it is not a myth. He really does love him beyond all imagining, and he really did give him up.
He did not spare him in death for undeserving sinners, and he, in the loss of his Son, he knows what you feel. One more thing: What does it feel like to be thankful for a painful loss?
Three months later, after a CAT scan, he says the tumor has shrunk to the size of a walnut, and something happens to your feeling of gratitude in the midst of all that pain.
It takes on a new emotional possibility, and when you go in three months later, and he says, “No trace of cancer,” your feelings about those horrible treatments are very different.
All I’m saying by that analogy — don’t press every point of it — all I’m saying is that the feeling of gratitude for something horrible changes over time with greater and greater closeness of God and the revelation of what he’s doing.