A woman in our church who also recently beat cancer, has now learned that it's back and in her bones.
A young woman who's a friend of ours has been battling SLE (systemic lupus erythmatosus) for years now, is in need of a kidney transplant, and has been in the hospital for over a month with a serious, life-threatening infection.
All of these people I just mentioned are Christians. They all love the Lord, have faith, and have incredible testimonies of His grace and mercy.
So, this always begs the question, "Why?"
John Piper preached a sermon that addresses this issue almost 30 years ago entitled God meant it for good. In it he establishes 10 similarities between Joseph and John the Baptist and one great difference. The difference of course being that the former ended up ruling Egypt while the latter had his head chopped off at the whim of a girl.
Piper goes on to draw three lessons from the lives of these two great men of God. I've summarized them below.
1. Don't assume you'll have a long life. Jesus said of John the Baptist that there was no man who had risen greater born of woman than he. (Mathew 11:11) John's fateful ending wasn't brought on because of sin or lack of faith. He had the highest commendation of our Lord. And let us not forget Christ Himself, the only one ever to live a perfectly holy life, who asked His Father if the cup might pass if it were possible, but gave His life in the most horrendous way to bear our sins and make our atonement possible.
2. God is the ultimate giver and taker of life. He gives it as long as our mission remains, and He takes it when our mission is done. Why did Joseph get out of prison and rise to fame while John the Baptist's prison stay ended in his execution? The simple but hard to understand answer is that their God-ordained missions differed. God's plan for Joseph was to make a way for Israel to survive famine and grow into a nation. God's plan for John the Baptist was to pave the way for Christ. "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) John the Baptist's life wasn't tragically cut short. He completed his mission on earth, then the Lord took him to heaven.
3. Those who love God and are called according to His purpose should never believe that a wrenching and painful turn of affairs is a sign that God is against you. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) Remember what Joseph said to his brothers after their father died and his brothers were afraid Joseph would repay them for the evil they did to him so many years before? He said, "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive." (Genesis 50:20) God meant it for good. It's easier to see this when the ending is a "happy" one. But what about John the Baptist? When Herodias told her daughter to ask her father for John the Baptist's head on a platter, she meant it for evil. When Herod had John the Baptist executed, he meant it for evil. But what about God? He meant it for good. He was bringing John the Baptist home, welcoming him to his heavenly home upon the successful completion of his earthly mission.
"There is no greater comfort than to know that no matter how absurd and irrational circumstances may seem, God is in control and always means it for good." (John Piper in God meant it for good)
Please pray for the families I mentioned above. They need God's grace to make it through these trials and complete their missions.