This post is part three of a wee series. Part One is here and Part Two is here. If you’re keen. ūüôā

Losing someone you love doesn’t cause you to ask a question no one has ever asked before, although it can sometimes feel like it. I think most questions about God can basically be summed up in just a few, and this is one of them:

If God is good, then why do bad things happen?

And here’s my best attempt at explaining what I believe about how this¬†bad thing has been allowed to happen inside the will of a¬†good God.

In this case, the¬†bad thing¬†was the loss of my Dad just now, at the age of 64, when I wish we’d had more time, when I felt so much good stuff was still to come. When I was counting on writing the book he inspired by simply speaking words of life about my gifts to me, and when I was planning on dedicating that book to him. And when these little grandkids were just getting to know him. And I kind of felt like I was, too.

{I still will dedicate that book to him, in case you’re wondering.}

Dad & Bear

{Dad & the Bear, before my sister’s wedding in 2009}

There’s a basic building block on which a lot of things hinge for me. And it’s the belief that free will is a dignity bestowed upon us by a God who loves us enough to let us choose whether or not to love Him back. If I held a gun to your head and said¬†Tell me ya love me, sweetheart, you’d probably oblige me pretty quickly. But the intrinsic value of your answer — my guess is it’d be pretty meaningless. Right?

Love can’t be forced.

So, in the wisdom of God, He created a world where we all have the ability to make choices. Lots of different kinds of choices. Like the choice to exercise, to eat peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese, to name one of our kids Hamish or Apple.

One of the choices my Dad made was with regard to his health. He was working toward getting healthier — trying to diet and exercise — but he didn’t really listen to the warning signs, the bells and whistles his body was sounding off to say “Things aren’t right! Things aren’t good!”

These were signs like shortness of breath and chest pains, the inability to walk uphill for an extended amount of time without losing his breath and needing to sit down for a while, issues with his blood pressure.

I guess he thought he could take matters into his own hands, and he tried hard: but counting calories and pedaling on his bike each day wasn’t enough.

There’s a very real possibility that my Dad’s decision not to go to a doctor when he was exhibiting signs of heart disease cost him his life.

Knowing this, who is there for me to shake my fist at, except my Dad, really? Yes I wish I’d said more, cajoled more, made a bigger deal about it when I was first told that he was having chest pains and I talked to him about going to the doctor and he said “He’d get around to it.”

I have regrets.

Ultimately, a 64 year old man who is exhibiting chest pains and showing other concerning signs needs to do the grown-up thing: visit a doctor. But my Dad didn’t.

He exercised free will. He made the choice to postpone, to procrastinate, to put off.

To that, I don’t feel right about saying¬†Why, God, why?

The appropriate thing to me is more like Why, Dad, why?

For the sake of further explanation, let’s say the circumstances were different. Let’s say he was minding his own business, driving home one evening and an absentminded driver was texting instead of steering, shot through a red light, and that was the end of the story.

Well, I’d still point to choices. I’d still point to free will.

It would’ve been someone else’s free will, in that scenario — but still, I’d point to free will instead of our Maker.

Of course, your next question might be, there’s disease. There’s famine. There’s poverty. There are hungry kids dying… whose free will do we point to then?

And the thing is, if I believe the account of creation that starts with In the beginning, then I believe that God created a world that was really, very good. Paradise even.

Our own decisions, one after another, from the beginning, contributed to the fall — the change from Paradise to arguments about gun control, hunger, disease, a bomber at the Boston marathon.

It all started with one big word I can’t escape using: Sin.

The decision to deliberately choose something other than God’s goodness completely changed the game. Changed the world forever. Introduced¬†not good into a world that had previously been always only ever wholly¬†good.

And our individual, daily decisions affect each other more than we realize. We want to buy clothes at a good price, so manufacturers look for cheap labor to fit the bill. Sure, you and I don’t want children in Thailand to head to a sweat shop for the sake of our cheap t-shirts. But, we’re more connected than we think, and in a way, we’re all partly to blame.

Our individual decisions to use disposable diapers for decades could mean a world-wide problem for centuries. Our individual decisions to vote like this or like that have consequences that affect us all.

And for a very long time, the world has been full of people, making their own choices. Our choices are often not good, and the consequences, well, they naturally follow suit.

I hope you hear me. I think this is big.

So now, I sit on the other side of this loss, and this experience like nothing I’ve ever felt before. But I don’t see God as the problem — I am certain He is the place from whence come the solutions.

Am I disappointed a¬†miracle didn’t happen the way I hoped?

For sure. I¬†really¬†loved my Dad. I don’t want to live the rest of my life without him.

And there is still an unresolved¬†why? I think there always will be. Why did I bump into an old friend at the hospital whose Dad had a heart attack the same day? Why did she get a miracle… and why didn’t I?

But I have tasted the sweetness of redemption before. I know the Redeemer, and I picture Him at the loom, already weaving this dark, harsh thread into a bigger tapestry, and it’s something beautiful.

He didn’t¬†cause this. In infinite wisdom, He did¬†allow this. He can¬†use this to create something beautiful.

Dad & Asher

This morning I danced in the living room with my boys. And when I say I danced I mean I all-out danced. Like no one was looking. Hair-flying, kid spinning, air guitar rocking, sore-cheek grinning.

I breathed deeply, excited about the possibilities of life that lay before my little family.

I will cry some more. But I will laugh more, too.

From loss I already see so much gain — there’s fresh purpose in my heart to guard the relationships with my Mom, my siblings, my husband, my precious kids, recognizing we will only walk the road together for so long.

I am hungry again to refuse a faith that goes through the motions, to plunge deep into the bottomless well of God, to drink deeply and to love the world around me fully again.

It’s as if this cloud descended, and I got wrapped up in the minutia of life, returning to North Carolina and trying to figure out how to do life again here.

But as the grief lifts, little by little, so the clouds lift with it. I’m looking up more than down.

And with wholehearted assurance my Dad is in a better place, I look forward to the day when I see him again, the day when there are no more whys for asking.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. {I Cor. 13:12}

If you’re reading this, and you’re also grieving, I hope you believe me when I say life is still beautiful. Hold on to the things that are truly valuable — and take the time to figure out just what those things are. Guard your heart, put your hope in the right place — let it anchor your soul through the storm.