Last night at about 3:30 am, I was woken up by ear-splitting screeching coming from the woods behind our cottage. In my stupor I couldn’t decide if it was human or not, but as it continued for nearly a minute, I could tell it was an animal. I found myself thinking, “Hurry up! Finish it off!” Whatever it was, it was in agony.
Today I’ve tried not to envision what might have been going on out there in the dark. Was it an owl having dinner at the expense of a rabbit?
Before sin existed, every person and animal got along. One day that’ll be true again. In the mean time, much of what happens in our fallen world is unpleasant. Some of it is downright gruesome, like last night’s attack. God could have protected that poor animal and provided food for its foe another way, but he didn’t.
Even though humans aren’t attacked as food, we sometimes, like the animal being attacked, come to a place of shrill screaming. Our lives ebb and flow, dipping in and out of negatives and positives. Some of it has to do with the laws of nature just as the attack in the woods did: hurricane Katrina, diseases like Alzheimer’s or meningitis, the BP oil spill, the ash cloud in Ireland, drug addictions. And Nate’s cancer. The labels are different for each of us, but none of us is exempt from the events that make us want to scream.
Although we often do rail against circumstances, what’s rumbling beneath our shrieking is probably anger against God. Wise counselors say, “Go ahead and yell at him. He can take it.”
But should he have to? If we’re trying to lead godly lives, our response to the negatives ought to be, “Yes, I hate this, but because of God, I know good stuff will come from it.”
Our family has seen the truth of that repeated again and again as a result of Nate’s death from pancreatic cancer. For one thing, all of us are less likely to take the others for granted or to assume, “It’ll always be this way.” We’ve seen our father and husband get snatched from us, and we’re aware, in a poignant way, that everyone’s hold on life is fragile. Another positive is that we’re appreciating Nate in a thousand ways, thankful daily for his part in our lives in former years. As a result of living in a world that includes cancer, these two good things are now ours. And they’re only the tip of the blessings-iceberg.
None of us would appreciate happy times if there were no bad ones. So we learn to endure, experiencing agony and uttering a shrill scream now and then but bearing up under the misery because at the end of it, encouragement that can’t be gained in any other way will be waiting for us.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” (Romans 5:3)