Altie was in her 70s when admitted to Hospice for bone cancer. She was born and raised in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. She and her husband moved to southern Ohio shortly after getting married. She was “saved” at age 50 and a member of a fundamental Christian church. She reminisced, “My husband was saved 15 years before me but he didn’t push me. It has to be your time. You’ll know when it’s your time. He’ll come to you. “
Altie lived in town with her daughter, Eva, for several weeks following her cancer surgery. But she longed to return to her own home in the country. So we arranged home delivered meals and an emergency response system, and Altie was on her way. Her family continued to support and encourage Altie while respecting her independence. On my first visit to her old home place Altie gave me a tour and proudly declared, “Me and my husband built this house and I drove just as many nails as he did.”
Altie adjusted remarkably well to returning home and living semi-independently, especially when you consider she was right handed but had very limited use of her right arm which was in a sling. When I complimented her on her adjustment, on learning to use her left hand, she replied, “But I think I’ve learned it a little too late. I think the cancer is getting worse. I’m not walking to the mailbox now and I’m not sleeping very well. You can’t help but ask God, ‘Why me? Why did all this have to happen to me?’ But I’ve always heard it said that we aren’t supposed to question God.” I’ve heard that statement so many times as a social worker too, but this time I just couldn’t let it slide by, so I asked myself and Altie, “But who says so?”
When I returned to the office I asked Shirley, one of our volunteers, her thoughts about questioning God. Shirley, being a student of the Bible and involved in the lay ministries of her church, enthusiastically accepted the challenge of researching what the Bible had to say about it. The next day Shirley reported her findings, “I started reading the Bible from the beginning and everywhere I turned someone was questioning or arguing with God.” She handed me her notes handwritten on a yellow legal pad: ‘Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh. What shall I say to them?’(Exodus 3:11-13); ‘What if they will not believe me?’ (Exodus 4:1); ‘Moses argued with God’ (Exodus 4:10); ‘Abraham questioned the Lord’ (Genesis 18:23). Shirley concluded, “The Bible is full of people asking questions of God. God wants us to turn to him because God understands us. He understands our weaknesses and our questions.”
A couple of years ago I was facing open heart surgery. Believe me, the night before my surgery, I bombarded God with questions. And I kept agonizing, what if? Then my daughter, Elizabeth, returned from the house and said, “Daddy, I thought you might want something to read” and one of the books she brought was a devotional by Oswald Chambers titled, “My Utmost for His Highest.” Later that evening I opened the devotional to the day, Dec. 14, and would you believe it, it was about the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds. I read one simple statement that brought me to tears of worship and praise and that gave that “peace that passes all understanding” ( Philippians 4:6-7). “Because I know that my Father knows, therefore I will stand and watch and see how He unravels this thing.” I no longer needed to know. All I needed to know was that “My Father knows”.
I’m reminded of the lyrics of the song, “Trust His Heart”: “Our Father knows what’s best for us. His ways are not our own. So when your path grows dim and you just can’t see Him. Remember you’re not alone. So when you don’t understand, when you don’t see His plan, when you can’t trace his hand, trust His heart”.
In conclusion, God doesn’t want parrots, sitting on their artificial perches, just dutifully repeating what they’ve been taught to say (paraphrased from A.W. Tozer, “Keys to the Deeper Life”). So let’s keep taking our questions to God, for He invites us to do so. “Come now and let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18). And the next time we find ourselves saying, “I’ve always heard it said,” let’s stop and ask, “But who says so?”
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-356-2525.