Early on in 2020 I decided to begin a Bible reading plan, the goal is to read the entire Bible in one year. Up until Mark's death I was doing pretty well at reading everyday, occasionally I would miss and have to read more than one day worth at a time. I recall experiencing COVID and uncertainty and being so comforted by the promises of God, the assurance that He is the same yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. With a God like that what did I have to fear? My God had always been faithful before, and He would be faithful now.
Mark had his heart attack on July 29th, and I prayed. I prayed that God would heal him, that God would save him. I had hundreds, probably thousands of people called upon to pray. Some of the most mighty prayer warriors I know and many that I have never met were praying that the God we serve would heal Mark, to keep his heart beating, to heal the brain damage, to allow Mark to spend the 6-8 weeks recovering in the hospital and return home to us.
Mark was declared brain dead on July 30th after his heart stopped again and could not be restarted. The God of the universe, who created the earth, did not heal my husband. He did not intervene, even though He could have. He could have, but here I sit, typing a post about how my husband is dead.
To say I wasn't angry, that I didn't question God would be a lie. You see, I never doubted that there is a God, I never thought "Oh, maybe my God was just not able." It's worse than that, He chose not to intervene. So that begs the question, "Why God? Why would you give me someone just to take him away? Why would you bring us together as one just to rip my heart in half? Why would you leave my children without their father?!"
Is it wrong to question God? I don't think so, I think that as long as I am still going to Him, as long as I am still asking or seeking or begging that I am still connected to Him. I also think when we ask the questions we have that God takes the opportunity to answer. As much as I wish the thought in my head would have been different, what I was thinking after Mark died is that I wish God never would have given him to me if He had always planned to take him. Wouldn't it have been better to not have Mark at all?
God answered me. He answered me the first time I opened the Bible App and began reading again. The Old Testament book of the day was Jonah. I won't put the entire text in here, so here is the backstory. God told Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach about the Lord, he disobeys and goes to Tarshish. While he is on the boat to Tarshish a storm stirs, Jonah knows it is God so he jumps in the water in an attempt to die. But, God saves him in the form of a giant fish that swallows him up. The fish eventually spits him up on dry land and God gives Jonah a second chance to go to Ninevah. He went to Ninevah, the people repented of their sin and God was merciful on them. This mercy of God's made Jonah angry, he did not believe that the country of Ninevah deserved to be saved. This is where we pick up, in Jonah 4.
"1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight."
God spoke to me directly through this passage. The first thing I noticed is that even in his anger Jonah still prayed to God. Even in my anger I still need to turn to God in prayer. Then I noticed that Jonah points out the mercy and grace of God, he knows who God is, he doesn't question if it is true. Then he says he would rather be dead. I have felt that, it would be better, easier if I wouldn't have been the one left her on earth to be in pain. The response God gives Jonah is just a question "Is it right for you to be angry?" I read that and I knew God was asking me the same, is it right? He isn't saying He doesn't understand why I am angry, He doesn't even say that I shouldn't be, He just asks if it is right. Jonah is angry and uncomfortable so God gives Jonah a plant, God eases his discomfort in the form of a plant. When Mark came into my life God was easing my discomfort, God was bringing me joy in the form of Mark, and I was very happy about Mark. But, God also took away the plant, he took away the plant and it made Jonah angry. Again, Jonah wants to die. God asks the same question "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?" Here is where I want to differ from Jonah, because I do not want to keep being angry. I want to remember what God says next. What He says in verse 10 really drove this home for me.
Mark was my husband on earth, but he is God's child on earth and in heaven. Rather than be angry, rather than ask the question of why God would give me Mark just to take him away; I need to be thankful for the time of rest and comfort I was given, be grateful for the shade Mark provided for me before he died. Not only what Mark himself did for me, but to stop and look at all of the things I would not have if Mark were not in my life. I could name them all, and to be honest I know how different my life would be. So instead of dwelling in my anger I will remember an important piece of this passage "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."