One day I read in Luke:
“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Luke 7:21-22, NIV
Yippee for them, I thought, as I’d been thinking for the past year and a half since my mom died (i.e., wasn’t healed).
I should really learn to control my sarcasm, because as I had that thought, my eyes strayed to the next verse.
“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” – Luke 7:23
Whoa, hold on. Where did that come from?
That seemed wrong.
Then again, hadn’t that been my very own struggle? Hadn’t my anger and disappointment at the way He chose to handle my mom’s healing (or, in my mind, the lack thereof) been my very own stumbling block?
He knew. He’d known all along. He knew while I was having those feelings, and He knew two thousand years ago, that sometimes we wouldn’t like what He did. Sometimes we’d disagree with His answers and His actions.
I guess He also knew that sometimes extending a person’s life wasn’t the best answer.
Sure, if you force me to be logical and compassionate, I’ll admit it: the best thing for Mom was not to have to stay alive and suffer from the pain caused by her tumors. The best thing for her was to close her eyes here, drifting away while we ate dinner in the next room. The best thing was for her to walk straight into the arms of her waiting God, healthy and whole and complete.
Just because that was the best thing for her does not mean it was what I wanted for me.
And though I feel like a petulant, spoiled teenager, stomping my foot, slamming doors in God’s face, deep down I’ve always known I couldn’t have asked for Him to keep her alive a moment longer. Sure, I would’ve loved to have had more years with her. True, I have felt adrift without her as my anchor.
But more sure, and more true, is the fact that God is with me. Emmanuel means “God with us.” And if the best possible outcome for my mom is to be with Him, and if He is with us here, too, then what is my problem?
Even when I’ve turned back to God, I’ve carried a heavy load of shame with me. Shame that I should’ve handled it differently. Shame that my faith wasn’t strong enough.
But this verse, this simple but profound declaration that “blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me,” tells me that He understands. He knows. This is not uncommon. And though I turned away, though I did stumble, I believe He gladly welcomes me back, holding His arms out to offer the comfort I rejected all those many months. We may go all kinds of places — anywhere to try to find a place where He is not — because there will always be people who don't like the way He does His business. We won't agree, or we won't understand, or we might see the reasons but still hurt too much to care if what He did was right.
But eventually we’ve got to stop and realize we can’t escape Him — and really, I don't want to. His compassion, His mercy, reaches farther than I could ever travel. And even though it hasn’t been a pretty journey, I’ve returned to Him. I've always been His, even during the ugly, even when it seemed unlikely.
I'm back. His blessings are waiting. And they’re waiting for you, too.