Does God really love you? If he does, why does he allow bad things to happen to you? Is it too much to ask for a life that is sanitized from all of the evil and suffering in this world?
Here’s a better question. It’s one that we rarely ask. What if the good that you wanted, you know, the sanitized life, was actually the worst thing for you?
Consider Michael Ham.
When he was 3-years-old, he had what appeared to be the symptoms of dehydration. He just wasn’t himself. So his parents took him to a doctor. His parents took every precaution in making sure that their son was healthy. Antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, you name it. When Michael saw the doctor, he got more of the same. Antibiotics. No questions asked. Get well soon, kid.
Only Michael didn’t get well soon.
He almost died.
Michael’s problem wasn’t an infection. He didn’t have a virus or some rogue bacteria causing his sickness. It was quite the opposite. He didn’t have enough bacteria.
All of the hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps and antibiotics were killing both the good and the bad bacteria in Michael’s body. And he got sick. Doctors call it CDiff.
Finally, Michael’s parents found a good doctor. This one wasn’t content with merely pumping the child full of more antibiotics. He tried something new. Something experimental. Something gross.
The doctor decided that Michael needed someone else’s stool in his body. For those of you who aren’t medically inclined, stool here refers to human waste, not the thing you sit on at the bar in your kitchen. To be blunt, Michael was overly sanitized. It was killing him. And the best thing for him at that moment was a little bit of his brother’s poop.
So that’s what he got.
And it saved his life.
Poop from his brother was the very last thing that Michael’s mom and dad wanted for their son. If you are a parent, you know that this kind of thing is the enemy. You do whatever you can to maintain proper, shall I say, stool control, among you kids. The transferral of poop is the last thing parents want among their children. But sometimes the very last thing we want is the best thing for us.
Spiritually speaking, I’m an antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, antibiotic kind of person. I want things to be clean. I want sanitation from the evil and suffering around me. But I rarely stop to consider the possibility that having those wishes come true could be the worst thing for me. Just like in Michael’s case, they could give me a false sense of security. One where my life is so squeaky clean that I don’t sense my real need. Until it’s too late.
I lived an hour or so away from my mom right before she died. Once a week, usually on a Thursday, I would make the long drive to see her. Those Thursdays felt more like Sundays. It was like I was having church in my car. I always listened to music that made me think about Jesus. I listened to a ton of sermons, most of them dealing with the goodness of God and suffering. My mom’s sickness made my heart heavy. But something else was happening to my heart.
God was working to make me love, know and trust him more.
And I’m not the only one. Many people say that their most significant times of growth or the times that they have been the most overwhelmed by the love of God was during periods of suffering.
I don’t know why God allows drunk drivers to kill young fathers and mothers. I don’t have any detailed answers for the family wondering what to do after a cancer diagnosis. I don’t have a clue what God is doing with Ebola right now.
But here’s what I do know.
God is working.
And his work is rarely as clean as we would like for it to be.
That’s a good thing.
Because sometimes the last thing we want is the thing that’s keeping us alive.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Job 1:20-22 (ESV)