When life changes in a moment… why?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my family’s near accident, giving thanks that they walked away unscathed. The post has been in the back of my mind as I think about mothers losing children through car accidents or disease; about sisters living life without their brothers; about families disrupted from a cycle of seemingly neverending surgeries. Just last night I heard about a friend who seems to be following Job’s journey rather too closely lately. Battles at his church left him bruised but not broken; disease left him scarred but not out for the count; now there’s another ghastly wrinkle I don’t even want to hint at it. Why, God?

WhyIt just doesn’t seem fair. Sometimes we witness what appears to be a miracle of saving grace, but at other times the split second matters and life changes in an instant, ushering in tears, anguish, questions, and pain. Does God intervene in the one instant yet hold back his hand at the other? If we say that he’s involved in those miracles, does that mean he’s also involved in the accidents and disease and personal losses?

I saw a friend over the summer whose sibling died a few months ago, in the prime of her life. When I questioned him whether he asks the “why” questions, he said he didn’t. He believes in the fall of the world, and so why are we surprised when bad stuff happens? The world is not as God made it; sin entered in and so people die and governments are corrupt and people fail each other and lie, cheat, and steal.

I believe that, but if it was my sister dying, I’m guessing I would ask why. Yet I think of another friend whose spouse and child died in the space of a decade, and who faced/faces physical challenges with another child. When talking about her journey and God, she said, “Where else do I have to go but to him?”

That comment made me stop and ponder.

One who thought about the why’s and why nots died a decade ago, Rob Lacey. I still miss him. I called him my “dream author,” for he delivered great content on time that sold. And he was just such fun to work with (on The Word on the Street and The Liberator). We talked about his next book as “the health story.” But we didn’t know then that his wife Sandra and friend Steve would be writing it after he went to perform in glory.

Rob with his lovely colleague Elin Kelly, signing books at Spring Harvest, 2004

Rob with his lovely colleague Elin Kelly, signing books at Spring Harvest, 2004

Rob’s poem “Why Me?” comes on page 196 of their book, People Like Us, and I include it here with Sandra Harnisch-Lacey’s gracious permission. He wrote it after he had an all-clear of no cancer in October 2002. (None of us knew that the cancer would come back three years later.)


Why Me?

Thanks, Emmanuel. Thank God with us. I’m well!
But why me? Not him? Why me? Not them?
It’s not ’cos I memorised the whole of Job.
O wore an anointed prayer shawl.
Or a special hospital robe.
It’s not ’cos we cried ‘Mercy’! a million times.
It’s not ’cos I wrote a hundred prayers with rhymes.
It’s not ’cos my wife deserves me.
Puts the sign ‘reserved’ on me.
It’s not ’cos my son needs me.
Twin tower workers were parents too.
It’s not ’cos we’ve hung on.
It’s just that God pulled us through.
So is it ‘because I’m worth it’?
Well, I am, I’m worth everything to God.
But so was Jacqueline du Pré,
So was Eva Cassidy.
So why? And when?
Was it already planned right back then?
Or did God shuffle and shift?
And watch all our prayers lift up past his eyes?
And did he hear our cries?
And did they all add up to Abraham- or Moses-size?
When they dared to do diplomacy with God?
Did we, together, negotiate with God?
We’ll never see the subplots,
The alternative scenes,
Until we get to heaven, read the script
And work out what it means.
There’s no recipe for what God gives free.
There’s no ace to play for grace.
It’s not that I toughed it out with cameras up my nether regions,
Tubes pushed through my back,
Needles in my failing veins,
Platinum pumped through every track.
It’s none of that.
It’s not that I kept a certain attitude,
When interviewed.
I’m no more clued than you.
I could’ve interceded for the lion with my name on it,
Been compliant with my giant.
I could’ve driven into Jerusalem on a clapped-out Robin Reliant.
And still, it might have been,
That I would die.
And we might have no idea why.
Would that have been God’s will?
Or is it God’s plan never to fill an empty grave?
Or does He save each one of us?
So how come some still die?
And why this?
Why that?
And with answers so shy
What’s the point in asking ‘why’?
So I won’t try to work out why.
I won’t sweat to work it through.
For now, Rob, just face it,
God’s mercy is focused down on you.
So leave your questions lying there
You might pick them up again.
Leave your lopsided, left heavy, rational, rigorous brain
Just give God his fame.
The always different, ever the same.
Live up your voice and yell…
Thank Emmanuel, thank God with us. I’m well.

Rob Lacey, October 2002


With Rob, I’ll put the “why’s” aside and focus on God’s great mercy, which he pours out on our lives, day by day. Sometimes he allows bad stuff to happen, but he never stops loving us or rooting for us.

With Rob, I’ll give God his fame, the One who is always different but ever the same.

How about you?

2 Responses

  1. Wendy Bray

    Rob was diagnosed at much the same time as me and our stories were similar-except that Rob died and I survived, unexpectedly. I can remember reading this poem then. I have often returned to it when friends have died ( as a three times cancer sufferer you lose a few) and it both jabs at my survivors guilt and pressurises me to live this saved life well. That there is no rhyme and reason is so important to flag up. I get heartily fed up with the God has a Plan for your agony brigade. Suffering was never part of his plan he cried and dies with us in the midst of it. I wrote about this in my blog theaccidentalordinand.wordpress.com) back in November when a third cancer appeared unexpectedly and I raged in the middle of the howling wind on the Downs in Bristol and realised that far from being distant God was howling in it with me at the ‘ unfairness’ of it all. I don’t understand the ‘allowing’ or ‘ ordaining’ or ‘ transforming’ of God-because even that is as inconsistent in its application as mercy. But yes, we go to God, because there is nowhere else to go. Period.

    1. Thanks for your apposite words, Wendy. I totally agree that God is there with us howling. I love that shortest verse in the Bible – Jesus wept. He weeps and rages again sin and death and pain, and we forget that, don’t we. I don’t understand the allowing of crap in our lives either. If he’s omnipotent, does it follow that he allows? I don’t think he turns a blind eye, but it’s ever a hard one to understand. I’ll go with ‘allow’ more easily than ’cause’ though…

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