We were seeing the oncologist a week or so ago to discuss options and risks for my mother’s upcoming treatment for the return of the cancer and hit upon the subject of the vagueries of the disease — why it hits some who have been health conscious all their lives while others who have not been, go free; why it comes back for some and doesn’t for others; why different patients have different types of cancer cells, some responding readily to less debilitating treatments, while others need to be walloped.
My mother is rarely sick, takes only one medication on a regular basis, has never before this had any operations, illnesses or medical procedures. She’s long been preoccupied with health, eating an organic vegetarian diet, avoiding soda, packaged foods, cell phones, microwaves, genetically modified foods and plastic. What’s more she did everything she was told to do when the cancer first showed itself a year ago. Yet here it is, back again. “Life is cruel,” she blurted to the doctor. And he nodded soberly. “Yes,” he said. “It is.”
In fact after all the years he’d been at his profession, he confessed there was a certain randomness to it all that he simply did not understand.
In medicine — and even in alternative therapies — it seems there is this idea that if we can just do the right thing, find the right combination of treatments or even preventatives, we can avoid the cruelty of disease. Sometimes we do. But other times we don’t and there is no “logical” reason from the human perspective.
So yes, Life can be cruel, but only because one doesn’t really understand it, or our purpose in it. The world is not heaven, after all, but fallen and filled with fallen creatures who are mostly under the control and deception of the greatest of all fallen creatures, Satan himself. The Adversary. The Accuser. The Cherub angel who, as the guardian of the Lord’s Righteousness, was akin to His best friend… and who betrayed Him. Not only in heaven with that first sin of independence, but later, on earth when he possessed Judas to sell out his Teacher for 30 pieces of silver…
And thereby sent Him to the cross for which He had come.
I sat there listening to my mother and the doctor, not knowing what to say, my mind full of realizations. I know that the world is not random, that God has everything under control. He lets his sun shine on the evil and the just, sends his rain to the good and the bad. He knows the number of stars in the universe and he knows the number of the hairs on each of our heads at any given time. Not one event occurs He not only didn’t know about in Eternity past, but in fact chose as the best thing for His kind intention and for his creatures’ highest and best.
His intention was not, however, to reproduce heaven on earth, but to demonstrate to the angels, fallen and elect, and to mankind, His glory. And His glory is in His grace. He gave the man and woman a free will, just as He had given the angels before them free will. The angels used that will to turn against Him, and in the same pattern, so did man. Satan must have thought he’d won at the point where the man and woman had both fallen into the same state he was in.
But that’s because, despite having been in heaven, having seen the Creator, and even having guarded the very throne of The Lord’s righteousness, Satan didn’t really know who He was. Maybe none of the angels did because who God is is not readily apparent in a perfect and righteous environment.
So He made the earth and man and let Adam and the woman fall, and decreed that all their progeny should be born in the man’s likeness, fallen, sinful, cursed, condemned. So God could come down and save them. It’s all about what He was willing to do for His creatures — take on the form of a man, submit to the injustice of the seven trials that preceded the Cross and then allow himself to be nailed up there, the only perfect man. The only Holy One, the only one worthy of opening the scroll in Revelation 5. We can only begin to comprehend what He did for us all, the ultimate sacrifice He made for His creatures, the majority of whom would continue in their independence and reject that sacrifice.
If we weren’t fallen, how could He show us that?
Sometimes God’s reality seems so incontrovertible, so compelling, so OBVIOUS. And at the same time, I can see the blindness in others who see the cruelty in disease and aging and loss rather than the necessary pressure those afflictions bring to a soul who is heading for eternal condemnation. They can’t see the grace in it, because they can’t see beyond the details. The material. The flesh, the people, the disease, the pain, the treatments, the decisions… the alternatives, the attempts to take control, to try and make this life something it is not and was never meant to be: perfect, without pain or sorrow.
It’s like this false template held up before their eyes through which they view all that is around them, and try to make things fit to it. A veil before their eyes that can only be stripped away when and if they come to Christ.