I knew the tears were coming. As the church stood to sing, I heard the opening notes and recognized the tune immediately. We sang it at her funeral.
“You’re a good, good Father…”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung it since, and each time I think of my best friend Mary Ann and her recent death. I remember sitting at the edge of her bed less than 24 hours before she left this world and planning her funeral with her and our other best friend, Allison. Even typing the words “planning her funeral” slay me – like touching a bruise. Our whole lives the three of us have always done everything together. I just never imagined that would include funeral planning.
She picked that song, and Allison and I nodded our heads, tearful, knowing the truth of it all. The truth that she was about to look Jesus in the face. The truth of the song’s words – despite her cancer, He was and IS still a good, good Father.
But Sunday I didn’t expect the feeling that welled up in me. As we continued the song, we sang, “You are perfect in all of your ways.” And I had to stop singing. My heart skipped a beat, and I asked, “Are you? I prayed fervently for Mary Ann to be healed and you let her die. How can that be perfect?”
The question shocked even me. I thought I had reconciled with it. So I asked – is God perfect? Really perfect? Because the death of a best friend, a daughter, a young wife and mother of two doesn’t feel perfect.
My six-year-old daughter, Grace, recently accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. A week or so after her decision she asked me, “Mama, sometimes I can feel Jesus close to me, but other times I don’t feel Him there. Is Jesus still in my heart even when I can’t feel Him?”
I shook my head and wondered how many adults have thought the same. I explained to Grace how the Holy Spirit lives in your heart when you accept Christ and even when you don’t feel Him, He is still there.
And in the same way Grace doesn’t always “feel” Jesus, I don’t always “feel” that everything in God’s ways are perfect. But the only thing that isn’t perfect is me. I don’t understand why God chose to take Mary Ann.
But God says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) You see trusting means accepting something even when you can’t make sense of it all. That’s where faith steps in.
I’m sure I won’t understand until I get to Heaven and can ask Jesus myself. But Mary Ann’s cancer wasn’t sent from God. He IS perfect in all of His ways. But you know what? My heart still pains a little when I say it.
It hurts because “self” gets in the way of God. My selfish wishes were to keep Mary Ann here. So the pain I feel when I say God is perfect in all of His ways is actually because I’m admitting that I don’t understand it. I’m dying to self. And let’s be honest with each other – dying to self is a painful process.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
So when we die to our selfish desires, we are allowing Christ to live through us and then we live by faith – trusting He knows what is best. And while that is a mouthful to say, it’s still easier to say than to actually live it out. Because, let’s face it, life is hard. And some days really stink. Sometimes no matter how much we pray, God still doesn’t answer the way we think He should. So living by faith is a daily choice.
But it’s what I’m choosing today because my God is a good, good Father. And though sometimes my flesh forgets it, I do truly know He is perfect. Perfect in ALL of His ways.
As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
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