• Ashten Johnson

Even if he does not

In the fall of 2013, I made what would turn out to be one of the most important promises I have ever made... and more importantly that I have ever kept. About a month or so after Aaron was diagnosed, I had a conversation with a strong Christian woman in my office. She explained that she felt the need to tell me about her own experience. A few years prior, her husband had fallen very ill, and she explained that it was not until she allowed herself to feel peace about the possibility that her husband would not make it that her husband began to improve (and eventually became healthy again). Essentially she had to bring herself to a place of telling God, "I trust you no matter what." She hoped that perhaps that would be encouraging to me. Truthfully, it wasn't. At least, not at first. I didn't want to think that way. To me, admitting the possibility that I would have to trust God despite not receiving what I was praying for was admitting defeat. I come from a family of very competitive people -- we do not admit defeat. But her words stuck with me. How would I react if God did not heal Aaron here on Earth? So I made a choice. I made a promise. I told God that I would trust him. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I told myself that "even if He does not," I would trust. I hoped in my heart that these were not mere words -- that I would have the emotional and spiritual capacity to keep this promise should that day come when I was called upon to do so. A popular topic in ministry these days is the idea of there being purpose "in your pain" which often sounds to me like "pain happens for a purpose." Perhaps this is too nuanced, but the idea that there is purpose in pain does not comfort me all that much. To me, for pain to have purpose somehow suggests that pain is part of God's plan -- that death, grief, and sadness are part of God's plan for us. Personally, I do not think that death was what God wanted for Aaron, nor do I think that grief is what God wanted for me. The truth is, we live in a fallen world where these things happen. If they did not, we would still live in Eden. The key I have found is not so much the idea that there is purpose in pain but that perhaps purpose can come from pain. Even if He does not, there can be purpose. Despite the pain, we can trust. That being said, I think we have to want it. It would have been easy and perhaps even understandable for me to crawl into a hole in December 2013. But I wanted purpose to come from my pain. And I had made a promise. I have been thinking a lot about God's healing and restorative goodness during 21 Days of Prayer, and quite honestly, it makes me emotional every time. Two years ago this month, I went to the animal shelter because I needed a dog -- I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Two years later and I am full of joy once again. I have an understanding of God, trust, faith, friendship, happiness and love that I never could have foreseen in the fall of 2013. I trusted, and God has restored me. He gave me the ability to hope again. He showed me how to love again. He didn't. And yet, He did. When people believe so hard for something, I think it is incredibly important to keep Daniel 3:18 in mind. Because let's be real for a moment: sometimes, He doesn't. Sometimes He doesn't heal cancer here on earth. Sometimes He doesn't do whatever it is you're hoping He will do. But even if He does not. Trust. He can bring purpose from your pain. He can restore you. He can heal you. He is good.