Where was God when Lew was declining and dying?

In the Fall of 1997 I found this quote in the book Encountering Evil: live options in theodicy edited by Stephen T. Davis. This is a book I never would have read had it not been a text for a seminary class. I also don’t recommend it unless you know what you are getting into and really want a challenging read. The original statement was written by John B. Cobb, Jr. in a postscript to the book. He is responding to the four theodicies presented in the book and answering the question, “If you agree intellectually more with this one or that one, how would that translate into your pastoral ministry?”

I have abridged it a bit to apply to Lew and disabilities. The original uses cancer as the “evil.”

“What is revealed in the cross of Christ? The power of that cross has been the power to draw people to it, not the power of compulsion. It is a power that does not prevent suffering and death or hostile rejection, but it is not the power that causes those evils. Even in the midst of those evils it continues to work for good. The pastor who believes this may encourage the sufferer to take with utmost seriousness all that can be learned about disabilities and their perversity, as well as all the human sins, including but not limited to the patient’s, that have contributed to their growth.

But that is not where God’s work and presence are to be found. Instead God is to be found in the life forces within Lew’s body that struggle against his disabilities, even when they are losing. (Italics mine.) And more important, God is to be found in Lew’s own experience, sharing the agony, struggling against despair, guiding toward serenity in the face of disability and illness, and finding opportunities to express love even in these terrible circumstances. God is suffering with Lew, not causing his suffering. God is also in those of you who watch helplessly as Lew suffers, trying to transform your impotent rage into constructive determination to do what you can to prevent the suffering of other children. Lew, I am certain, experiences God’s presence and love through all of those who love and care for him and we experience God through Lew.”

I think that where Dr. Cobb says:  “God is in the life forces within the body…even when they are losing,” I would add “especially when they are losing” because that is when God draws us closer still.

Image of Cherry Winkle Moore
Cherry Winkle Moore

Cherry Winkle Moore is a visual artist and a retired hospice chaplain. Cherry has a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting, drawing and printmaking from the University of Alabama. Later she completed a Master of Divinity degree with an emphasis in pastoral care. Cherry sometimes says that in her case the MFA stands for Minister of Fine Arts and the MDiv stands for Making Divine Images Visible.

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