Suffering: When God Shouts

And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)

The Holy Prophet Elijah encountered the Lord God and Creator of the universe in a “still small voice.”  As the passage suggests, one might think one will encounter God in some event of great power – in hurricane force winds, in an earthquake, or a blazing fire.  But God doesn’t need Hollywood techniques to make His presence known.   The still small voice is God’s.

The challenge for us is to become silent enough in our hearts and minds to hear that still small voice.  And then to be prepared, not for some great revelation, but for a question from God:  “What are you doing here?”    


Good question.  One really has to know one’s self to know that answer.  Why do I want to be in God’s presence?  What am I doing here?  Am I ready to do whatsoever God might tell me to do?  Am I ready spiritually to encounter holiness?  Am I able to be in God’s presence or will my own sinfulness repel me from God?  Am I ready to hear what God wishes to say to me – not what I hope or imagine God would tell me, but to hear God’s voice and God’s message?  Or am I there only to try to get the Lord God to be my servant and do what I need some god-servant to do?

Then comes that still small voice.   Is my mind so full of its own thoughts and preconceptions, that it could even hear a still small voice?   I mean, would I end up saying, “Huh?”  “What?” Could you repeat that, Lord, I must be deaf for I couldn’t quite hear You?

Are we not in this situation every time we hear Scripture proclaimed in church?  The voice sounds so human, sometimes it is small.  And often it is just so hard to pay attention, to listen.  The minds wanders, I’ve heard it all before.  It is speaking to the congregation but not really me personally.  Or is it true that God is speaking in a still small voice?   Right in church, any day of the week?  What does it take for me to really listen, to hear God and not be distracted by the wind, earthquake and fire of my thoughts or of the people (the children!) who are all around me?  Can I discern the still small voice  even with all of these distractions around me or in my head?

Dr. Daniel B. Hinshaw makes an interesting observation as he reflects on the writings of C.S. Lewis:

“The English academic, writer, and great twentieth-century apologist for Christianity, C.S. Lewis, described the role of pain and suffering in the Divine economy this way:

‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscious, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’

If pain and suffering are used by God to attract the attention of a deaf world, to what should the newly roused world attend?

‘As we rise daily, let us suppose that we shall not survive until evening, and again, as we prepare for sleep, let us consider that we shall not awake. By its very nature our life is uncertain, and is meted out daily by Providence. If we think this way, and in this way live – daily – we will not sin.’

St. Anthony the Great was not alone among the early fathers of the Church in admonishing Christians to remember their mortality. The pain and suffering that are such common features of the human experience are intimately connected to human mortality. It is the unique understanding of this problem and its resolution through the suffering and death of the Incarnate God that is the core of the Christian faith.”

(Suffering and the Nature of Healing, p 229)

Upstaging Cancer

How many people would be happy to announce, “I have Stage 2 lung cancer!”?

I at least heard this as good news after being told 2 weeks ago that I had Stage 3 lung cancer following the lobectomy surgery to remove the malignant lung tumor.   Today, my oncologist told me I really am Stage 2A, not Stage 3.   He said as of this minute my cancer is considered in remission since there is no evidence of it having spread to any other organ.  Cancer cells may still be there, but no other organ has been affected by them.

It was a great relief to be told I now have Stage 2 lung cancer – at least compared to the devastating news of 2 weeks ago.  It certainly gave me a moment to breathe deeply and be thankful.  This news was true even with the troubling news that 14 of 15 lymph nodes removed and biopsied had cancer.   Still, the cancer seemed to be contained to one lung and one side of my body.  The oncologist said he had never seen before the particular configuration of the small tumor, no signs of cancer in any other organ, and a large number of lymph nodes having cancer.

I went in to the oncology appointment with total uncertainty as to what would be next, but the news was quite hopeful.   There is a path that seems straightforward.  My tumor is going to be tested to see if it has one of two identifiable genetic mutations.   If it has either, I agreed to consider doing a trial cancer study with treatment aimed specifically at destroying this genetic mutation.  If I don’t have the genetic mutations, the oncologist proposed following a more standard procedure of chemotherapy with the hope of curing the cancer.   All of the tests and treatment could be done here in Dayton.

Removing the lower lobe of the right lung appears to have been the right thing to do.  The tumor is gone, and there is at the moment no organ known to have cancer in the body.  The fight can now be taken to the cancer to see if it can be destroyed, so that I can be declared cured of cancer.