Why suffer?

Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.
He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.
~ Psalm 113:5-9

Pleasure without pain is meaningless. Life before cancer was a life that was still developing. Cancer brought everything abruptly into focus for both me and my husband. We are on a newly intensified mission together. We are grabbing life with both arms and squeezing tight. We are laughing instead of bustling about, oblivious. We are sitting together in a messy house instead of obsessing about neatness and order. We are watching sunsets from our porch (which is unfinished) and taking bike rides when we should be doing the supper dishes, and inviting people over when we could be planting a lawn or any other of a myriad of unfinished tasks. Children helped us in that process, too, as did marriage. Without ever being single, would we appreciate the warmth of the midnight cuddles? Without being told we were infertile, would the children be celebrated the same? I am grateful for the "negatives" in my life that so sharply delineate the "positives" - times of suffering that heighten my sensation and enjoyment of times of reveling.

White without black isn't as remarkable. Imagine a black and white print with no shades of gray, no darkness. You would be holding a simple sheet of white paper. There is no special beauty in that, is there?

Imagine "love" without passion or glints of anger and the resolution and reunion that follow. Is that even love - or just coexistence, or convenience...

Imagine feeling full all the time, and never having the satisfaction of filling that gnawing hunger in your belly...

Imagine a world without sunrises or sunsets, where the sun never goes down. Never knowing the deep solitude and peace of a dark winter night, when the moon and stars are hid by a heavy bank of clouds and the world is black...

Imagine never seeing the majesty of a thunderhead growing in the west, or feeling the pelt of a rainstorm on your back, raindrops flying so fast they sting your scalp through your hair...

Good without bad. Peace without fighting. Life without suffering. Feasting without famine. Labor without pain. What in that world would make you want? What would strike the chord of longing that lies buried in your stubborn heart? Do you want to live a life without desire, without wanting?

My choice is for desire. I choose passion over pacifism. The darkest parts of my heart (the pride, materialism, temper, and laziness I hide deep inside) show me I need God...a God that is merciful and loving, but also a God that is just and passionate, a God that will not be deterred. A God that demands worship. I have truly loved...and it is a jealous love. Am I willing to share my husband with another? Absolutely not! God feels the same about you. You cannot serve two masters: if you think you know who God is, and still refuse Him your worship, you are sorely mistaken. Yet while you live, there is hope: God is merciful, just as my true love for my husband is - only beg forgiveness, and it is yours. If these two qualities - jealousy and mercy - can coexist in me, in my marriage, a simple human marriage...how much more they must dwell together in the character of the awesome God I serve!

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath. (Deuteronomy 4:24-31 exc.)