Here we are, once again, shaken and perhaps even stirred, by this glorious pastime we call “Life.” Let’s, for a moment, recap a few tidbits that we’ve picked up along the way and address the question, “Why are we here?” No, I don’t mean “The Big Question.” Douglas Adams answered that for us in 1978 (42). We’re gathered here today to continue our discussion on hope and faith and why they appear to fail. I welcome those of you who have just arrived. If you want to catch up with the rest of the group then you can start here. We’ve addressed the possibility that one reason that hope and faith appear to “fail” is that, instead of pursuing God, we’re pursuing the “thing” in which we hope. We’ve discussed that, according to the Bible, hope, faith, and trust are all dependent on us. That’s right, you and me. Love, on the other hand, is based on God, who cannot fail. If this intrigues you and you’d like to read more then please read the previous parts of this series. Muchos gracias!

It was brought to my attention that not everyone believes in God. We are a diverse people, humanity, and we believe and don’t believe all sorts of things. However, whether or not you believe in God is not the issue here. Yes, I do believe and express my beliefs here with the tools that have been given to me. I do hope, (there’s that word) that we can agree that Life is not about us. Life is not about me. Go ahead, say it, “Life is not about me.”

Now, this is a major issue in the world in which we live. Too many people, for too long, have thought that life was just about them, their families, or their “in-group” of people. We’ve been running a race against ourselves for thousands of years. We put money, comfort, “peace” of mind and ourselves ahead of this planet upon which we all reside. We walk around with a mindset that, “as long as this doesn’t bother me, it’s okay.” Well, it’s not “okay.” Look around the world. Does the world look “okay” to you? Are you happy with wars, starvation, and genocides? Look closer to home. Does it bring you joy when you see a person without a home, starving on the street? Do news reports of mass shootings indicate that everything is hunky-dory in the world today? I hope not. Let’s move on and I’ll step down off this box.

We need one another. That’s just the way it is. No society can work against itself and survive. We depend on one another whether we like it or not. Let’s look at it even more locally. If you’re a blogger then you need people to read your blog, right? Enough said.

I moved to Sacramento in 2018 hoping to be healed of a twenty-year illness that had been keeping me in pain for most of my waking hours since 2016. God called me here in December of 2017. Although I had heard the call, I wasn’t set on moving. I had lived in Santa Barbara most of my life, it was my home. Then, I watched it burn and get wiped away in mudslides.

Sacramento life is very different than Santa Barbara. It’s not until you move somewhere where you don’t know the area and don’t know anyone, that you realize how many friends you left behind. I noticed, after moving up here, that I wasn’t getting better. I was getting worse. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that I had been in pain before. I thought that I had suffered before. In my pain and suffering, I turned more toward God than I ever had. I started asking questions again.

Oh, I never really stopped asking questions. Just the wrong ones, I guess. Joe was on my mind. Every year, on the anniversary of his death, I would try and not think about it. It’s ironic how something would happen, each year, around his death, to remind me of the date. Like a nagging feeling that you left something on when you left home. Like death’s skeletal fingers, tapping me on the shoulder.

Only this time, as my illness grew worse and pain crept into my sleep and my sleep became less, and my desire to live, even less. I started in with the questions again. This time, really simple, “Why?” I’d go out on pain-filled walks, pushing through the rain of Sacramento “winters” and I’d yell at God. I’d shout and demand, “Why?! I have done what you have asked. I have moved. I have left home. I have left friends. Why am I suffering more?” I let Him have it. I went down the list of everything that I had done in faith that had failed. I begged Him to bring me Home. I told Him, heal me or let me die. I can’t take it anymore. I thought I had faith, but it had all failed.

You know, there are conspiracy theorists who say that we’re always being watched by someone. Well, I remember the day that answers came. It was so much of a cliché I have to laugh when I think about it. The rain was pouring down and I was on my knees, staring into the Heavens, rain splattering into my eyes, yelling at God. I was in so much in pain. Unlike the cliché in the movie. I didn’t get the answer there, on my knees, in the mud. I got up, and continued my walk back to the house, asking Him to forgive me.

It was then, while cleaning up, moving ever so slowly in fear of the unexpected pain, that I remembered Joe’s memorial service.

I was speaking with Nancy, and we were both crying, she must have said my name, because someone from behind asked, “You’re Jason?” It was someone from Joe’s family. A cousin or someone. I don’t remember. I do remember suddenly being swamped by people who were thanking me. They were all so happy. I had forgotten their happiness. All I had remembered was my selfish pain. My belief that my faith had failed.

Here were all these people who had known Joe longer than I had. All of these people who knew who I was. Knew that Joe and I had spent his last year together. They were thanking me! Me, for being there with Joe. He shared our conversations with his family and friends. He talked to a lot of people in that last year. Here was shy Joe talking to so many people. Telling them about God and the friendship we shared. They spoke of the changes in Joe’s life. How he was strong and courageous. He didn’t talk about dying. He only spoke of living and being healed. At the time, it was like acid in my face. Throwing our conversations back at me. Into the failure of my faith. This time, though, when I was remembering it. I could see the joy. I could see hope. I could see faith. I remember telling them, “God did it. I had nothing to do with it,” or something like that. I didn’t and still don’t, deserve any credit.

Most of all, though, I remember Nancy. I remember the look of relief in her eyes. I remembered our counseling sessions, and I knew. I knew that the marriage would fail. If Joe had lived. Nancy stopped blaming him for cancer, but the issues that were there, they just got tucked under the rug.

I remembered it all. The memorial service. How people spoke of Joe. The Lord brought it all back to my mind and then He said, “Do you see? I put him into your hands. I trusted you to guide him to Me. I trusted you. You didn’t fail.”

Joe would have survived cancer only to lose his wife, the dreams that they had, the new life and new home. His family and friends would have briefly remembered Joe’s courage and strength. The divorce would have crushed him. No one would have remembered this shy man, who faced death, with courage. However, with his death, Nancy moved on and got that house and honored Joe and their marriage. His family and friends, they remember him strong.

As I write this, it dawns on me, that my dear friend, didn’t call me that last time, when he went to the hospital, because He loved me. He knew it was time. He was going Home.

There we have it. God’s perfect timing. God’s thoughts above our thoughts. His ways, beyond our ways. It’s not about me. It’s about Love and serving one another in love. Whether or not you believe or not. We’re all here, on this pretty blue planet, together. We live together, and, if we’re not careful, we’ll all die together.