Yesterday, I happened to see a picture from Sunday, January 27. The Sunday we found out that our baby boy had gone to live with Jesus. The day we found out that our Charlie James was not actually coming to live with us. As I looked at the picture from that sunny afternoon I kept thinking about what that day had been like for us.
We had gone to church that morning. The sermon was on suffering, and I vaguely remember reading passages from Job and Ruth. After church we were driving home and I remember saying to Reid, “Honestly, things are so very good right now that it feels like it might actually be the hardest time to really hear God.” I was so excited that our baby boy was coming soon. I had gotten everything I wanted most: a girl, and then a boy, and then a girl, and now a little boy…and I was so very excited to meet him. It felt like one of those rare, extra happy moments of life, when you sit back with a sigh, and think, “Life is so very good. How can it be this good!” And then I said to Reid, “During the whole sermon this morning I just kept thinking about what C.S. Lewis once said that “Pain is God’s Megaphone,” and how when we’re in pain…that’s when we can hear God best.” We chatted about that for a bit longer, had our lovely Sunday afternoon, and that night at 11:55pm…our lives changed forever. God brought out the Megaphone.
In the Problem of Pain C.S. Lewis says,
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Even though we can hardly breathe most of the time, and often feel like we are walking through a dark blackness and wrapped in a thick fog…I do feel like there are some things that I have never ever heard God say so very clearly as I’m hearing Him say them now. Two things stand out in particular as God shouts to us in our pain.
First, God is God. I’ve never been so deeply aware that God is God…and that I am not. Every moment of our lives since 11:55pm on January 27th has been a reminder that regardless what we wanted, regardless what we prayed for, regardless of how much pain we are in…God is God. My heart has cried out to God over and over again, “God, this is not what I want! I want baby Charlie to be here in my arms!” There is a deep finality to death that makes you realize that you are absolutely not as in control of your life as you had thought.
Intellectually, I’ve always believed that God is God, and that as God He can, and will, do whatever He wants. But I think we all just close our eyes, and hope against hope that He doesn’t do anything too different than what we want. We pray, “God please protect my kids.” Does this mean that God did not protect our baby boy? We pray, “God please keep them safe.” Does this mean that God didn’t? We pray that we would experience “God’s grace.” What do we really mean when we say that? Does not getting what we want mean that this time we didn’t experience God’s grace…and that this time we can’t?
Ironically, the more I run to God’s Word and search His heart for what is true…the more I want this to be something that God just chose to do. I don’t want to believe in some wimpy God who could not have stopped this. I don’t want to follow a God so small and blind that He could not have seen this coming. I don’t want to worship a God who could not have, at any moment, said “Peace be still” and protected us from this storm. Honestly, as much as this hurts and is the heart break of my life…I want to know that God did it. That God chose this. That GOD…the God who I had prayed would protect our baby and bring him safe into our arms…is the one who could have stopped it…and didn’t. I’m going to take it even further…I want to know that God planned this. For Charlie, and for us. And I truly believe that that is who my God is.
“The LORD of hosts hath sworn saying, “Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” -Isaiah 14:24
“Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?” -Amos 3:6
“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:19
“The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the LORD.” -Proverbs 16:33
“See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me. It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal.” Deuteronomy 32:39
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” -James 4:14-15.
This is the God that I am wrestling with. But this is the God I want to wrestle with. The God who’s face I want to seek. Because if He is strong and powerful enough to have stopped this…then it is safe to say to say that He is strong, and powerful, and wise enough to have chosen this. And that He is also strong and powerful enough to carry us through it. To walk with us through what He has planned.
And that’s the other thing I’m hearing through God’s Megaphone right now: We need God so very much. Desperately in fact. We just can’t get through this without Him. I still look down at my belly at least ten times a day in shock, as if waking up from a bad dream, and think to myself “I can’t believe that my baby is gone. I can’t believe that Charlie has already come and gone from our lives.” We need God every second of every day. I’ve never prayed so much. Not in a noble, organized, sit down and pour out your heart to God kind of way…but in a broken, messy, cry out to Him just to get through each broken, messy moment kind of way instead. I need Him just to get to the grocery store and back.
And that’s what I’m hearing loud and clear through the megaphone at the moment…“My precious child…you’ve always needed me to get to the grocery store and back…you just didn’t know it.” And its true. The same God who lovingly numbered Charlie’s short days…has numbered mine. The same God who has tenderly carried us through the darkest days of our lives…was always carrying us. It’s just that now we see it. Through His megaphone we hear it.
And so we keep walking with Him. Because He is God. And we are not.