40 A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. [bold emphasis added]
I have had a certain reminder note up on my bulletin board since the passage above came up in a devotional reading.
The phrase "If you choose" struck me, as it's reinforced by Jesus' assent, "I do choose." What a powerful moment that must have been.
I wrote the note as more of a reflection and reminder of what I choose to do. So many times, I get caught up in the "ought to, should of, have to" and forget about using the power of my own choice to make good use of my time in life and ministry. Ministry should be life-giving, as the story of Jesus healing the leper illustrates.
But today, another eternal question was raised. What about the times when God chooses NOT to? What about the times we are not saved, not healed, not led? What about those wilderness wanderings, and the times we feel utterly abandoned and unloved? What about Job, who lost it all, and the personal Job stories we encounter of good people struggling with so many evil consequences? Where is God, or as Philip Yancey asked in his book,
We want, we need to believe in a God that loves us so intimately and cares for us so personally that this Divine One can step right into our lives and intervene for our benefit. And sometimes we witness those divine moments (or at least credit them as such). But more often, we are left struggling with a God that appears to not show up or get involved. We can say that "God has a plan" or we can't understand it all, but it's not all that comforting. We can try to live in the tension between holding on to faith even our hope ebbs away. "I believe...help my unbelief!"
Sometimes faith is a choice, an unlikely one, but sometimes it's the only hope we can hang onto in this perilous world. We don't understand the plan, perhaps we never will, but sometimes the glimpses we see are breathtaking. There's just enough light to guide us to the next step, just enough strength to hang on for another day. And someday, perhaps years down the road, we look back and see how we been carried through.
I don't have an answer for the question and I'm in a lifelong process of trying to embrace the divine mystery of God. Fortunately, when the question was posed to me today I was struck mute (due to bronchitis, but perhaps there was a little divine intervention?? there to keep me from sounding like Job's bumbling idiot friends making excuses about why bad things happen to good people.)
But what I hang onto is hope, and love, and goodness, and when I see and feel those things, I thank God and I feel connected to God. When I encounter pain and suffering, I seek God because I'm not strong enough on my own. And when I've made it through, I hope I'll remember that it was not on my own merit, but because of the God who carried me.