Guy Sayles

One Quick Question (On God and Grieving)

Originally published on December 15, 2008. Caleb Spady died on July 21, 2009, having fought brain cancer (DIPG) for 15 months.

“One quick question,” I said to my pastor. He was heading back to his lunch table with a full cup of coffee; I’d finished my lunch and wanted a word with him before I had to leave.

“Oh hi, Aileen,” he said, more gracious than most would have been, having been caught between coffee and dessert. “What’s up?”

“A lot. For one thing I just lied to my pastor." I realized in that moment what he no doubt already had guessed. “My question is neither quick nor singular.” Guy Sayles smiled, relaxed and unhurried. I forged ahead.

Caleb Spady“My friend’s son—he’s 10—has inoperable brain cancer. He got bad news yesterday, really bad news. His mother and I were talking last night, and she asked me some tough questions. I’m only in the second semester of seminary here. I have no idea what to say.”

"I’m not sure theological degrees give you the words to say under those circumstances," Guy said, speaking the frustrating truth of pastoral care.

“My friend's question was this: ‘If God is omnipotent as we believe God is, then why hasn't my son been healed?’ Good question right? So, ya know, why?”

Setting his coffee on the counter, Guy shook his head. “Well the first thing I would ask myself is, 'Is this really an appropriate time for a theological discussion?' It probably isn't. If not, I would say, ‘I don’t know. I’m so sorry. I love you.’”

I found this to be brilliant instruction. How many times do we spout off theological treatises when it just isn't the time? The person really needs to hear, “What you are going through is awful and I’m sorry that you are going through it because you matter to me.” And we start quoting scripture, telling them about God’s will or the nature of creation. Sometimes, we need to say less in order to say more.

Guy continued. “If it is a good time for a theological discussion, then I might say, ‘Well, God doesn't always get God's way.’”

He must have noticed my hesitation because he elaborated. “When people disagree with me on this, I ask them, ‘Does God always get God's way with you?’ Of course not. If it is true with one person, it must be true with others. And if God doesn't always get God's way with people, then God doesn’t always get God's way in the world. After all, if God did, then why would Jesus have commanded us to pray for God’s will to be done? It would just be done whether we prayed or not.” (Intriguing, huh?)

“But,” Guy said, “If God is omnipotent, and we are Christians, then we believe

  • God's greatest power was displayed on the cross.
  • God's strength comes through suffering;
  • God's power is in weakness.
  • We are free when we become God's slaves.
  • We are greatest when we become the least of all.

Christianity is confusingly full of contradictions. The equations just aren't as simple as we would like them to be.”

I knew he was right. But what could I tell my friend that could comfort her, if only momentarily?

“There is one simple formula, though,” Guy went on. “God loves us. God just loves us. God always, completely, beyond-our-imagination loves us.”

“So, when our hearts are breaking. . .”

“Then God’s heart is breaking too.”

About the Author Aileen Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.

Leave a Comment:

sane above says August 28, 2014

Exactly, Aileen. If our hearts are breaking and God loved us so much that he sacrificed His only begotten Son, Jesus. then His heart must be breaking also, out of pure love. Who can beat that. No one! After all He is our Father and we are His children.

    Aileen Lawrimore says August 28, 2014

    Blessings to you Barbara as you adjust to the losses in your own life!

Fresh Water From Old Wells - Aileen Goes On says May 11, 2015

[…] One Quick Question […]

Jesse Ian Flynt says August 27, 2016

There will never be a reason in the world good enough for our children to be in the ground while we are walking around. It's true that I will be better for having had my son in the first place and my life can and eventually should reflect this. It is a fallacy, I think, to assume that any reason will ever be good enough. I do remember Jobs friends offering lots of reasons and answers. All of them were wrong.

    Aileen Lawrimore says August 27, 2016

    Oh Jesse! I absolutely agree. The loss is so profound, so consuming. You speak the truth: "there will never be a reason in the world good enough." Any reason offered would be "a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal." Prayers for you as you cope with this most unimaginable loss.

By the Pool of Bethesda | Aileen Goes On says September 2, 2016

[…] leader of our trip, led us in a devotion. Interestingly, a few months later, my pastor at the time, Dr. Guy Sayles, preached on this text. I’m indebted to these two theologians for much of my understanding of […]

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