"If you can," pleaded the desperate father, "make my child well again."
If you've read the story of Jesus and the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9, you'll likely recognize the primary plot: Jesus rescues a young boy from the destructive clutches of demon possession. It might be difficult for you to identify with that particular storyline but certainly not the one exhibited by the desperate father.
"If you can," the father says, betraying his own inclination toward unbelief.
We as believers like to hold such characters up as examples. They give us the example of what not to do, but it's often these people that teach us the most.
The father's statement is one of desperation - a last resort. For years his son has lived with this affliction, and no matter what the father tried, he could not help his son. It's an awful situation, one any parent who has a child with a chronic illness would sympathize with.
Finally, he finds himself at Jesus' feet, begging the miracle worker to heal his son. You can almost hear him sobbing, "If you can "
It's a popular saying used to comfort in times of trouble: God will never give us more than we can handle. While it helps us deal in the moment, it only gives us a false comfort and, perhaps, a misunderstanding of how God operates. So will God ever give us more than we can handle?
The relationship between our flawed, human condition and our Heavenly Father is that we can't handle it all. It's why we need grace. It's why we need the unconditional love of God. It's why, when we are overwhelmed by life, we are pointed toward the throne of God.
In truth, God will give us more than we can handle. He might even allow us to feel the full weight of our incompetency through personal tragedy or, yes, even let us experience natural disasters. He can allow certain circumstances to befall us that crush our sense of normalcy, that leave us wondering, "Where is mercy? Where is grace?" He can permit us to experience brokenness, devastation and catastrophe. It's all in His ability to allow chaos in your life.
This sounds like an unjust God - like a God behaving badly. If we were to take such circumstances at surface value, never plunging deeper into God's will for our lives, we might even conclude that God is completely capricious in His dealings with humankind. Yet even in the direst of times, God offers hope.
"We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV)
Bad things happen, but God is faithful, and he can redeem you. We often try every earthly solution before we pray, asking God for guidance. Even then, our prayers are fraught with doubt.
"If you can " we feebly pray.
He can. He can take the brokenness and restore it to wholeness. He can pick up those struck down. He can rebuild the crushed. We only need to seek Him.
There is certainly enough to pray about, given the events of recent weeks, so I encourage you to lift up the victims who are left to collect whatever semblance of normalcy left floating in the flotsam around their homes. Pray that these precious individuals seek God. Pray for miracles to blossom in their lives.
Email Jamie H. Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.