You’ve Been Warned: Life’s Hard

There’s a good chance that you are unfamiliar with the name Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk). But Spencer was behind one of the most widely read Christian blogs in the country consistently ranking in the top ten. In early April he died after a brief fight with cancer. Michael Spencer was 53.

Recently his wife, Denise, posted an article on her own site discussing how difficult her husband’s death was. Unlike other stories in which the dying person saw Jesus or recovered enough to say good bye to his or her loved ones, Michael Spencer’s death was hard, brutal, and painful. Here’s Denise…

Michael’s illness was just plain hard. I’m not complaining; it could have been a thousand times worse and I know that. Yet from the day he got sick in late November until he died on April 5, he never again had even one good day. His life became throwing up in a bucket or trying to sit perfectly still so he wouldn’t throw up. My life became driving him to medical appointments in the dead of winter through rain and sleet and snow and fog and sometimes all of the above. I’ll condense the story for your reading enjoyment. Michael got worse. Life got harder. Then he died.

As hard as his illness had been, I secretly harbored a hope that there would be some kind of tiny payback at the moment of his death. Perhaps he would see Jesus or an angel (or the Virgin Mary?). Maybe there would be some sign of his readiness, some indication of peace and joy as he passed into the next life.

But just as cancer had treated Michael harshly, death showed him no kindness. The disease had been relentless. No remission, no respite for either of us. Likewise, there was no beauty in his passing, even for a fleeting moment. Death was ugly and it claimed him unceremoniously. He struggled to breathe, and fought harder as the day wore on. After the hospice nurse administered morphine it seemed to take forever for him to grow calmer. The breaths still came in labored gasps, his jaw dropping at an odd angle. His eyes were half open but unseeing. At some point I noticed that his lips were blue and I dared to lift the sheet. His entire body was mottled as his circulatory system slowly gave out. I touched his face. I held his hand. The family gathered around. We watched as the raspy gulps of air became shallower…and slowed…and stopped.

Denise Spencer’s faith in Christ was tested by her trial but not shattered. However we’ve all heard plenty of stories where people leave the faith because of some sort of great personal tragedy. Their thinking usually goes something like this: “A God who allows this kind of suffering to happen isn’t worthy of my praise. Therefore God either doesn’t exist or if he does, I’m not going to follow him.”

But does that make sense? Did God ever promise that if we only believed in Christ we could escape disappointments, tragedies, heartbreaks, or suffering? The following is loosely based on some things I read over at Team Pyro.

If God had ever promised that we would not die, then death would be a good reason to leave God. But he never promised that.

If God had ever promised that Christians wouldn’t suffer at the hands of others, then persecution would be a good reason to leave God. But he never promised that.

If God had ever promised that life for the Christian would be smooth sailing, then encountering rough waters would be a good reason to leave God. But he never promised that.

If God had ever promised that every person that we cared about would become a Christian, then the death of an unbelieving spouse or friend or child would be a good reason to leave God. But he never promised that.

If God had ever promised that life in this world would turn out like we wanted it to, then disappointment would be a good reason to leave him. But he never promised that.

So what’s the point? Well I guess my point is that a lot of times life is very hard. Things not only don’t always work out in the way we’d like, but they often don’t even work out in a way that seems remotely fair or right. But Christians of all people shouldn’t be surprised by that. Almost every page of the Bible reveals both the destructive power of sin and the challenges that every person faces. Becoming a Christian doesn’t keep us from those challenges. If anything, it expands them. God has been very upfront with us about the trials that will come our way in this world.

It’s ridiculous to leave God because of something that he never promised in the first place.

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