We all have days that live in infamy. For our family, one word at one moment changed us forever. Sitting in a tiny examining room with wood panel on the walls, I knew deep down whatever the doctor was about to share would not be good. “I wish I had better news,” she said, “but I believe Carson has leukemia.” Leukemia? Not Carson. How is that possible? I’m ashamed to say that I knew little about pediatric cancer at this point and my knowledge about cancer in general was frightening. Fear immediately invaded my heart and tears quickly followed. By now my wife Heather was breaking down beside me.
Now, six years after sickness put everything we believe about God and our faith to the test, Carson is completely cancer-free. Sometimes I find myself paralyzed with amazement and gratitude while watching him play sports, laugh with his friends, or sing in church. Normal, mundane things are more beautiful to me than would have ever been possible apart from the trial that rocked us to the core. Carson endured over 130 consecutive weeks of chemotherapy that included over twenty lumbar punctures and twenty-eight weeks of steroids. Fever hospitalized him on six occasions, and we spent multiple nights in the ER battling viruses. He battled nausea, soreness, mood swings, and exhaustion. Yet, by God’s grace, my son is not only alive, but he is also thriving now that cancer is in our rearview mirror.
People often ask me what valuable lessons I learned through Carson’s ordeal. My new book, Hope When Life Unravels, chronicles most of the valuable truths God taught our family during the ordeal. Here is a glimpse of what you will read in its pages, as well as some cherished insights eliminated due to space.
- It is okay to ask God why. Why is God letting this happen? Why my son? Why now? These questions ran wildly through my mind after Carson’s initial diagnosis. Initially, it embarrassed me to bring such trivial inquiries before God. Even as I sought answers to my anxieties, Carson had questions of his own that needed answering. Why do those nurses have to poke me? Why do I need this medicine? Why can’t we just go home? Why are you and mommy crying? Why? Why? Why?
Then it dawned on me. I do not resent these questions from my son. In fact, I am eager to comfort and reassure him that everything will be okay. Even when certain answers were not helpful for him, I withheld them out of concern rather than frustration. Could it be that this is how God hears our cries for information? Occasionally, well meaning Christians or Bible teachers will either explicitly or implicitly caution that asking God why is out of bounds. Yet, the Bible nowhere teaches that it is sinful to ask God why. Job asked God why twenty different times. Moses asked God why He sent him to lead the nation of Israel (Ex 5:22), Joshua asked God why He was allowing Israel to be destroyed (Joshua 7:7), and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah asked God why He dealt so harshly with Israel (Is 63:17; Jer 14:19). Perhaps most stunning of all, however, is the remarkable lament of Jesus on the cross when He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me (Matt 27:46)?”
In none of these instances will you find God irritated or angry because of the question. Questioning His work in your life is permissible even though demanding an answer is not. Feel free to ask God why, just don’t chastise Him if you don’t like the answer.
- Jesus really is enough. The issue is not whether God is real, but whether He is enough during seasons of difficulty. For years, I preached and encouraged others who were hurting to trust God no matter the circumstances. Though I sincerely believed this was true, I lacked an experience that tested my knowledge. That is no longer the case. Carson helped me to see that having God in your life is always better than any answers He might give to explain your plight. I found God to be faithful, not because I read it in a book, but because I lived it with my son.
If these observations encourage you, preorder your copy of Hope When Life Unravels today. Simply click here. I’ll share more lessons like these in part 2 of “Lessons from the Furnace.”