My son was born with a congenital condition known as a hypospadias, which basically means that his urethra's opening was not where it should have been. We were told upon a visit to the Urologist that they would have to do corrective surgery when he was eighteen months old as his body was not big and strong enough to do the required reconstructive surgery before then. The day of the operation and the week thereafter were truly the toughest thing that I have ever had to endure. I lost my father when I was fifteen years old and I have experienced other valleys along the way as well that are simply part and parcel of living here on earth yet nothing can compare to the pain a parent goes through when their child is suffering.
Even though this was a fairly standard, low risk operation, it destroyed me to see my son in such pain, unable to even stand up for several days and screaming in agony every time he had to pee. I remember praying to God, sometimes thanking Him that we lived in a time and place where things like this could be fixed. Other times I was practically begging Him to remove the pain that my son was experiencing, then on other occasions I would be furious with Him for not honoring my previous request for healing. Never before had I felt so helpless in a situation and I am so thankful that those days are behind us and that everything turned out well in the end.
This brings me to Jessica Kelley’s book Lord Willing?, where she vividly retells the tragic story of her four year old son Henry's death from a brain tumor and where she explores what God’s role in that process was. The book starts with a bit of a background story as to how she went from believing that God was in total control of everything that happens on earth and that all of the pain and suffering around us was somehow allowed or designed by God to ultimately bring glory to Him. To how she eventually came to reject that views in favor of a what she calls the warfare worldview which states that although God is all powerful, He is not all controlling and does not specifically allow bad things like cancer, murder and sex trafficking to happen. This view states that the love of God demands that there was a degree of risk involved in creation. Hence the death, disease and destruction that we see all around us today are not the results of the will of God but rather the fruits of a fallen creation. For example, while Gods will can be seeing in the command “thou shall not murder”, some people choose to walk a path contrary to that will. Murder therefore is clearly not part of God's will. Throughout her testimony Jessica Kelley keeps pointing us back to Jesus, back to the cross and reminds us that the full revelation of what God is like was revealed on Calvary, this is what love looks like and she continually urges us to trust in this image of God.
The book continues with the story of the discovery of an aggressive brain tumor in her son, the treatment thereof and then finally the death of four year old Henry. It was absolutely heart wrenching to read and at times I simply had to put the book down because the emotion was just too intense for me to press onward. Jessica has done a masterful job in retelling her story, recalling the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, the beauty of life and the ugliness of death in a manner that makes Lord Willing? so very human and easy to relate to.
From there on things shift more toward a theological discussion. Things that have been mentioned briefly up until this point, whether on the side of the more traditional ‘blueprint’ worldview or the lesser known ‘warfare worldview’, both get a thorough scriptural examination. While I might disagree with or admit uncertainty about some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what is presented, I am in full agreement with the overall model and picture that this book provides. There is evil in this world which God is at war with. We see it in Jesus when He cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead and rebuked a storm. But in war bad things happen, there is pain, there is suffering and there is loss. Yet when tragedy comes we can be certain that God wins in the grand scheme of things and that while He is still opposed, He is working to bring about good even when His will is thwarted.
My hope is that this book will fall into the hands of as many people as possible because to some degree or another we all experience suffering and loss and, in those moments, what we believe about God will either push us away from or toward Him. I believe that this book is a great tool in helping people to see God more clearly, I hope that it will help people to stand against evil and say, “this is not of God” and in the midst of life’s greatest trials we can with full assurance run toward Him and know that there is comfort in His arms, that He is good, loving and trustworthy.
I cannot recommend Jessica's writings highly enough. You can purchase Lord Willing by clicking over here and you can read her blog by clicking over here.