Monday, March 19, 2018

The Why

 Great is the Lord and mighty in power;
His understanding has no limit.
Psalm 147:5

I loved soda. Loved to drink it, loved the bubbles, the flavor, and the bite. I drank it every day, sometimes for breakfast. My mother hated soda and hated that I drank it. Over the years I did attempt to quit, but my resolve didn’t last long. The headaches would start, then the cravings. And I missed it. I just really liked drinking soda.

One morning while visiting my parents, my mom saw me sneak a soda out of the fridge (I had brought my own secret stash). “Aha!” She yelled and I knew I was in trouble. She addressed my stepdad, “Do you see what she is drinking? For breakfast!”

My stepdad and I had worked out a mutually beneficial scheme over the years. We had our little foibles, and we developed the philosophy, “What Mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” So during the soda skirmish with my mom, I turned to my coconspirator and asked him, “Do you really care that I am drinking soda with breakfast?” “No.” He replied. Mom went through the roof. “You are going to rot out your stomach!” End of discussion.

I knew something was wrong before I went to my first doctor appointment. My stomach was bulging; my bellybutton went from an “innie” to an “outie.” I had to go to the bathroom frequently and I was tired. I didn’t know what was wrong but definitely knew it was something. Lying on the exam table, as the doctor poked around my abdomen, I could tell he knew something was wrong too. He left the room and my first thought was, “Oh no, Mom was right.  I rotted out my stomach.”

Well, it turned out it wasn’t my stomach. It was a large malignant tumor coming off of my ovary, and I later learned it originated from the uterus. Uh-oh. All of my unscheduled OB-GYN appointments flashed through my mind. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had gone to the gynecologist. I hated it.

In fact, one year my primary doctor wrote out a prescription on his little white pad for me to go to the gynecologist. He had asked if I had gone that year. No. The year before? No. He was frustrated, wrote the prescription and handed it to me like a parking ticket. “You need to go.” And I finally did but still wasn’t regular about it. I cannot ignore the irony that by avoiding the appointments earlier in life, I now had OB-GYN appointments scheduled every three months for the next two years. But no complaining now, I was thankful.

For me the “why,” as in “why did I have cancer?” seemed obvious: my own neglect. Or at least that was the reason it had advanced in my body as much as it had. But the “why” goes beyond that when addressing cancer. It goes from, “why me?” to “why her?”, and “why him?” It seems the younger the person is the bigger the “why” becomes.

We realize life isn’t fair. When I heard my cancer diagnosis, and knew my own health history, the why question didn’t hit me that hard personally. But when I learned of an eighteen-year-old friend with cancer, the “why” became huge. Was God still around?

The psalmist asked,

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

Then later he answered himself,

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Psalm 10:17)

There are a lot of unanswered questions between the “why” and the “answer.” God is present. He hears our prayers, and our petitions. He knows of our afflictions and encourages our hearts during our trials. Yet, the “why” may not be answered in this lifetime. It is one of the hard truths. We have to give the “why” over to God and trust that He cares, He loves, He knows. 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

“The Why” is an excerpt from Sara’s book The Bald-Headed, Tattooed, Motorcycle Mama’s Devotional Guide Ó 2013.

Sara Nelson O'Brien is the author of


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1 comment:

  1. I drank soda for breakfast too when I was in college. Diet soda! Ugh! What was I thinking? I haven't had soda for years now. I did develop a stomach problem but that is getting better now after 10 years. Yes, God is present and loves us. Maybe some day, we'll know the whys.