I was on my way to work one morning, listening to an Audiobook, and as we often do I wasn’t really paying attention. I was glaring off into the morning sunrise and I was thinking. The audiobook was called The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. It’s about a defense attorney, getting up in front of folks who question the existence of Jesus, and making a case for why we should believe in him. Specifically, the section of the book I was in was Strobel’s case for the resurrection of Christ. Lately, I’ve been consuming scripture and religious textbooks like they are pumpkin spice lattes in October.
I’ve always been close to Jesus, but I’m at a point in my life where I have questions...questions I don’t know if I'll get answers to. And yet, instead of feeling pushed away, I’m drawn closer to Him. I’m compelled to learn as much about Jesus as I can, so that one day when he and I finally get a chance to meet face to face I can show him the love that he’s shown for me, so I can thank him for not giving up on me. But I still do have questions.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, things happen in our lives that make us question God. Maybe it’s the person who won’t text you back. You think, “Why not me? Is it something I did? Is it something I said?” Maybe it’s a test you failed. You think, “Lord, I studied so hard. Why can my peers, who didn’t study at all, pass this test when I studied all night and failed?” Why, God, why? Maybe it’s a little deeper than that. Maybe it’s depression. You think, “Why does it need to be me? Am I meant to feel poorly every single day? Will it ever get better?” Every one of these questions is grounded in one single question: “Am I good enough?” Why, God, why?
There’s a story in The Bible I’d like to look to in the book of “Matthew”, Chapter 13 verses 1-23. It’s called “The Parable of the Sower”. By this point in “Matthew”, Jesus has healed the sick many times over, his disciples seeing each miracle performed with their own eyes. Most of the towns where the miracles were performed, though, chose not to repent for their sins. His disciples, although witness to these miracles, are beginning to question their significance. The Pharisees have the support of the majority of common people. They continue to question Jesus, too, in hopes they can bait him into doing more of what they consider to be unlawful, thus causing more people to question if Jesus is actually the messiah.
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
I’ll never forget the day I found out I was going to be a dad. I was sleeping in our master bedroom and my wife had already awoke. In hindsight, I should’ve known something was up because I always wake up first. My wife came in the bedroom and shook me awake. She asked me to come into our dining room. The dining room was on the other side of the living room. I don’t know about you, but when I first wake up and don’t have contacts or glasses, I feel like I’m walking through a forest in a snowstorm. I can’t see anything.
When I got to the dining room table, I saw what appeared to be a book (and I treasure this book to this day). It was called Dada. I looked at my wife and she lit up. We laughed, we cried, and we embraced. We were going to be parents, finally. After a year of trying and thinking we may not ever have what we always wanted, we were both relieved to have finally made it. My dad and brother actually came down to golf with me that day. I was so overcome with joy that I found it hard not to smile the whole day I was around them. I knew there would be a time and place where my wife and I could tell them together, though, and it wasn’t on hole 6.
A couple months later, my wife and I were given the news that no parent wants to hear. We went in for a routine ultrasound and the doctor came in and said, “I have bad news.” There were complications, so my wife and I were being sent to a specialist. We went to the specialist shortly thereafter and the specialist told my wife, “I don’t want you working and I want to see you back in a few days to see if this has gotten better.”
At this point, we had a million questions, most of which there were no answers for. We just had to have faith and believe that everything was going to be okay. We came back a few days later and got more bad news. They were going to admit my wife to the hospital to stay until she went into labor. I don’t know about most of you, but I was afraid. Yes, I was afraid for the obvious reasons, but also some of the not-so-obvious like, “Man, I’m going to have to eat SO MUCH McDonald’s because I can’t cook at all.”
A short time later, my wife and I had our baby boy. We named him Beckett and he was the most beautiful thing we had ever laid eyes on. He was perfect. Due to being born premature, though, and the complications that come along with that, he was going to have to stay in the hospital for awhile.
Last month, we went through some more complications. I’ll never forget, I walked in one Sunday and my son was staring back at me with bright eyes and a big heart (pictured). This is the last time him and I ever looked at each other. You have to understand, with all that equipment and all of those wires attached to him, it’s very tough to see that. I’d look at him, though, and he’d have the biggest smile on his face and he’d act like nothing was wrong. But I knew he was where he needed to be. I could feel the love and the joy he had every single day. He grabbed onto my finger and I just stared at him. I could have lived forever in that moment.
A few hours later, he started getting very sick. The doctors came in and told my wife any parent’s worst fear. “We don’t think he’s going to make it through this.” Some short time later, our baby boy was in the arms of Jesus.
Why, God, why?
This experience was the most joyful, most humbling, and most painful experience I’ve ever gone through. And I had more questions about my faith and relationship with Jesus than ever before. I wondered why, after all the fighting my son did thus far, why he could be taken so quickly. I wondered why my wife and I were meant to go through this pain. I wondered if we or our marriage would make it through this. Why does it need to be us? Why aren’t we good enough to be our baby boy’s parents?
Why, God, why?
Jesus told his disciples “The Parable of the Sower” because they too had questions. They had listened to God’s word from his one and only son, witnessing countless miracles, and they had questions.
When my son was born, I was a seed sown on rocky ground, receiving it with joy that lasts only for a short time. During the process of the NICU, my soil turned thorny, as the anxieties of watching my son fight every day began to choke the life out of the fruit of God’s word for me. I became distant and resentful, questioning why God would do this.
Being a follower of Christ means not always having the answers to what happens in our lives. It’s not always what we see with our eyes but what we receive in our hearts. You can’t truly receive the message of God in your heart if you’re a seed sown on rocky ground. You have to work by building your relationship with Jesus, even when your entire circumstance seems like it should be pushing you away. You need to bring your questions to Jesus, even when it hurts and it’s the most painful thing you feel that you could ever do. Bring your questions to Him.
We can’t be content with rocky or thorny soil. We must transform ourselves, through cultivating the soil of our hearts, so we can make our soil fertile and truly receive the love and understanding of God’s word. If you do that, you will have a better relationship with Jesus, you will become a better Christian, and you may help someone else who may be struggling with their soil.
I’m not resentful of God anymore. I know my son had a purpose for being with me, even if it was just for a short time because my soil has transformed. It went from rocky, to thorny, to fertile and my seed is now able to grow, mature, and receive and understand God’s word in ways I never could have imagined possible. It’s okay to have questions. It’s okay to be joyful one moment and anxious the next and wonder Why God, what happened? But bring your questions to Jesus. He will transform your soil in ways you couldn’t have imagined and help you reach your full potential.
Heavenly feather, I thank you for bringing me here today. I thank you for allowing me to share my story so that it may help enrich the soil in other people’s lives. Father, I ask that you assist those of us who may be struggling today or who have questions in life with no answers and help us sow the seeds of your message into our hearts. I ask that you be with those who are battling in silence and help them come to the light of your word, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray.
THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica.