And on the mothering board we frequent there is a long thread of people who have had their faith shaken by her death because we were all praying so fervently for her healing. I cannot comment there on the thoughts that are going through my mind for they aren't the happy "Christian" platitudes that people seem to expect and perhaps need to hear in times like these.
Am I sad for the loss my friend's family is experiencing? Of course I am. Death is hard for those of us left behind.
Does it break my mama heart that her 10 surviving children, ages 22 to 2, are going to go through the rest of their time on this earth motherless? Absolutely.
Do I believe that her lack of being healed in this life in any way has anything to do with us not praying enough or believing enough or having enough faith? Absolutely not and the fact that we as a group seem to collectively bear that false guilt infuriates me about the way the church teaches about healing.
Mary had stage 4 lung cancer when she was diagnosed. She was pregnant with her 11th child, a surprise pregnancy in her 42nd year. She was stunned when they found the cancer and by the time they did find it she was very aware that there was very little medical science could do for her or for her baby. She did what any of us would do in that situation. She turned to prayer. And she called on us, her friends, to pray with her. Praying for Mary was a privilege. Of course we prayed for healing. Who wouldn't? This was a friend and her baby. And I believe that Mary drew strength for her battle from knowing she was being lifted 24 hours a day in prayer. Yet the battle didn't end the way we hoped. She and her baby died yesterday within hours of each other.
What makes me angry is that our grief is tainted with a false sense of guilt. An inflated sense of our own power that leads us to blame ourselves for something we truly had less than no control over. It is taught in the churches under various names, "name it, claim it", "claiming your healing", "believing for a miracle"...the thing is, at its core, its a form of witchcraft. Its the idea that if we just say the right words with the right amount of faith then God MUST do what we ask of him. Like Dorothy Gale tapping our red glitter heels together and chanting "There's no place like home, There's no place like home..." we feel cheated when the Wizard doesn't grant our wishes.
Yes, we are told to come boldly before the throne of grace and present our petitions to the Lord. Yes, we are told, and I believe, that our prayers can sometimes move God and change what otherwise would be. But ultimately I think we show a shocking lack of humility when we presume that is the USUAL outcome. Miracles are called miracles because they are rare.
As I prayed for Mary, always in the back of my mind was the awareness that the battle she was fighting was one that most people do not win. Is that a lack of faith or a solid grip on reality? I truly think it is the latter. The outcome is not what I had hoped for. I don't pretend to comprehend the purpose of taking a mother from her children especially when she had children who were still so young. Yet in these times and situations I keep coming back to God's response to Job and I realize that I wasn't there when He laid the foundations of the earth and I don't have sufficient understanding to make sense of these things. I honestly take great comfort in that fact. That it is OK not to understand, not to have to make sense of things like this. I am incapable of understanding.
What I DO know and understand is this, the God I know and serve would not punish my "lack of faith" by taking the life of another person. He just wouldn't. Therefore any thought that such a thing contributed to this is false guilt.