When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense
Written By Dream of Hope, Malaysia. Originally in Simplified Chinese
In July, I received some bad news from relatives in Taiwan about my cousin. Her cancer had returned, and this time, it was terminal.
I was shocked to hear the news, since I had just recently seen her posting happy photos of her travels in Japan on social media. She had completed chemotherapy, and looked like she was entirely recovered.
In addition to tearfully praying for her, I really wanted to fly to Taiwan to see her, because I was afraid I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see her again.
At the time, I was working on my research thesis, and the deadline was quickly approaching. On top of that, airplane tickets were expensive, and I had recently stopped receiving a stipend from the university. I wasn’t sure whether buying an expensive ticket might negatively affect my finances.
I was very conflicted about what I should do.
Uncertainty Should Lead Us to Prayer and Action
As I prayed about this decision, 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminded me, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
This gave me confidence to go ahead and buy a ticket. Even though I knew I couldn’t offer my cousin any real help, I was afraid to live with the regret of not visiting her. After deciding to go, I soon realized that my passport had expired. Thankfully, I was able to renew it the day before I left.
Just two days after buying the ticket, I left for Taiwan.
Who Is to Blame?I spent a lot of time thinking on the six-hour flight to Taiwan: Why would a loving God allow this to happen to my 17-year-old cousin?
I considered her living habits, how her parents monitored her diet while she was sick, and felt hopeless as I thought about it all. “If only they had listened to our advice in the beginning! Not to take her to travel, not to bring her out to eat . . .”
I was angry, but the words of the Bible reminded me, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). I considered the many late nights I had spent working on my thesis and I realized I, too, had put my own health in jeopardy. Who was I to judge?
In that moment, I asked for God’s forgiveness. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” I shifted my focus to praying with confidence to God, “Please heal my little cousin!” I also prayed for her parents, that they would be strong in body and in spirit as they took care of her.
We Can Glorify God Even in the Midst of Pain
When my family and I arrived in Taiwan, we heard from her parents that she had regained consciousness. In fact, when she heard that we were coming, she took a turn for the better.
But when we went to see her, my heart broke. I saw multiple tubes connected to her small body. The steady stream of painkillers didn’t appear to alleviate the pain, as she was curled up in a ball on the bed. She couldn’t eat or drink . . . or even speak. The moment she saw us, she started crying. Her parents said, “She is a strong child. Even during chemotherapy, she rarely cried, and rarely said it hurt. It’s a good thing for her to cry now, to let her suppressed emotions out.”
I stayed in Taiwan for a total of five days. During those days, I worried about my pending thesis, but I also spent a lot of time reflecting on my own life.
Looking back, I never really understood Psalm 63:3. It says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” The truth was, I didn’t know how to praise the Lord when my circumstances were not good. Yet, as I was writing this article, I read David Wilkerson’s explanation of Psalm 63:3. He writes, “Life is short. It fades like the grass, which is here one season and gone the next. Yet God’s lovingkindness endures forever. A million years from now Jesus will be as tender and loving toward us as he is now. Others can take your life away from you, but they can’t take away God’s lovingkindness.”
I realized that, whatever our circumstances, we have a loving heavenly Father who watches over us in the midst of them. He knows all the tears we have shed, the pain we have suffered, and the burdens we have carried. He remembers our every need, and knows our every thought. We can praise Him, because He has already given us something better than our troubling circumstances—He has given us freedom from sin, and eternal life (Romans 6:22).
We Should Never Stop Praying
Maybe you are in a difficult situation and do not see any hope, and might even be in total despair. Please never stop praying. Boldly pray and ask God for help! We must believe that we are sons and daughters living in God’s love! Faith is looking up to the cross even when we cannot see God’s hand, or make sense of how our suffering fits into God’s purpose.
After returning to Malaysia, I was thankful that I managed to hand in my thesis on time, and that the stipend that had originally stopped has now restarted, and I’ve received extra funds to cover what I missed during the hiatus. This again affirms that God’s grace is sufficient for me!
In September, my little cousin lost her battle with cancer and went home to be with the Lord. Looking back, I could see that that trip to Taiwan meant much more than I could have imagined. Even though we still do not have all the answers to our questions, we’re continuing to look to the cross and lean on God’s lovingkindness, trusting that it’ll all make sense one day.
I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear cousin. May God comfort you and your family.
I’m so sorry. May God comfort and be with you.
My Brother, Mom, Aunt, and some In-laws have died from Cancer.