When God Isn’t Good

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“Live (and die) so that anyone who knows you knows God is good.”

The night before we left to meet family for Christmas, my husband John and I drove 45 minutes to Pawleys Island (Pawleys for short), a community where we bought a creek lot this past summer. We wanted to decorate the property by hanging an ornament and putting spotlights on the live oak that shades it. One of appeals of buying in Pawleys was its close proximity to The Abbey, a church we joined just months before we made our purchase.

On the way there, John said, “They’ve called in hospice for Chuck.”

“I hated to blurt it out tonight,” he said, “but there wasn’t going to be a good time to tell you.”

Bishop Chuck Murphy was our rector at The Abbey until he resigned three weeks ago. He died a few days later.

Chuck was diagnosed last January with stage 4 brain cancer. Most of us anticipated him living many more years because he had powerful believers praying for and expecting his healing.

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At Chuck’s funeral, Philip Jones, his successor as chairman of the Anglican Mission in America, told the story about Chuck saying to Margaret when they were 18-years-old and dating, “I don’t want to be 65 and not have made a difference in the world.”

Chuck ministered to thousands of people, probably tens of thousands. He oversaw the planting of more than 200 churches in America including The Abbey, where we started attending about two years ago. We also worshipped under Chuck’s leadership for six years at All Saints, another church in Pawleys. His bold regard for scripture changed the landscape of Anglicanism and impacted the world, and John and me too.

Bagpipers accompanied Chuck’s family to the entryway of the church. During his service, a trumpeter played Revelle. We sang, “What a Beautiful Name.” Twenty plus robed clergy traveled to pay homage.

Things were said like “Chuck left a legacy of family, leadership, and character.”

“He flew 40,000 feet higher and saw beyond what most of us see. He had a singular focus on the Kingdom of God.”

“He had little use for the praise of men, but wanted it from heaven.”

“His ways were generous and he was always asking, ‘How can I come alongside you and help make this happen?’”

The day after hearing the hospice news, John and I drove separately to the mountains to haul all the food and Christmas presents. On the way, I bargained with God that if he’d heal Chuck, I’d complete my manuscript. I couldn’t think of anything more important to wager. I pleaded with him when I remembered Abraham’s appeals for a town in the Bible called Sodom. I begged and bargained and bawled.

An hour and a half into my trip, I looked up and saw a billboard, a sign, advertising a can of Glory Foods field peas. I laughed at God choosing one with humor that said, “Peas Be With You.”

I hoped it was a “sign” that Chuck was being healed the way I wanted the miracle to happen. Having him survive and seeing prayer work so powerfully made sense for our church and for us. Attending The Abbey’s been a big part of John’s and my restoration in our marriage and individually. For us, Chuck’s healing wasn’t about only Chuck getting better. It was about us too.

We thought we needed more lessons from his nearly 50-year marriage to Margaret. We watched his three daughters and their families attend The Abbey and sit together Sunday after Sunday.  We learned from watching Chuck act as spiritual head of his household, as well as our church home.

He played his guitar and performed on the church piano, not for the congregation, but his family. I’ve never seen him play except in videos posted by one of his daughters. He believed every word of the Bible and taught it in a way that made me believe it too. He talked about dancing in the streets of heaven with Jesus. He laughed when he preached. I bet he was laughing when he died.

 

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Margaret forwarded this message on January 9th, “Chuck, as he would say, peacefully went down the water flume before us this morning at 1:30, right into the glorious Kingdom of God. Our family is doing ok, but we know Chuck is doing great as he joins his Saviour and Lord.”

My stomach knots up when I think about Chuck not being here for our move to Pawleys and for us to move forward.

It’s at The Abbey where I’ve seen John raise his hands and get on his knees, tear up often, and soften.

It’s where I’ve felt safe and not because we have a security guard walking the grounds. It’s the place I learned to trust and lean into God being good. Genuinely good, not cliché good. It helped to watch Chuck and his family believe in God’s goodness in sickness and in health.

I’ve tried spiritualizing my pain instead of feeling it. Maybe you do this too. I like to think I’ll stop hurting if I pray, talk to friends, read inspirational books, read the Bible, practice gratitude, trust God, journal about it, ask others to pray, worship, listen to uplifting songs, seek wise counsel, do the next good deed. These things all help for a little while.

I thought about a passage in one of my inspirational daily readers. It says, “God is not a terrorist.” I imagine plenty of us question if God is out to get us sometimes. If Chuck was going to die so soon and the pain and loss feel so big, why’d I even stumble onto a post about The Abbey one late night on Facebook? This past week, I almost wished I hadn’t.

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But it’s like the quote in Shadowlands, the movie about C. S. Lewis’ life, when he struggled to handle his wife Joy’s death. He repeated to his good friend something similar to what Joy had told him earlier, “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”

Just as poignant even though from a cartoon character, Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Trying to make sense of Chuck’s death reminds me about a mom trying to do the same after letting go of her 41-year-old daughter to breast cancer. When questioned about God’s goodness, she said something like this, “I would never have said ‘yes’ to something like this no matter what good changes I was promised, but I also would never return to the person I was before my daughter died. Watching her die, I learned about benevolence and bravery and being ready to meet Jesus.”

Like the mom, neither would I go back to who I was before The Abbey and before witnessing Chuck and his family deal with dying and death.

Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? This time around, I’m trying not to question since I’ve noticed if we’ll give Him time (even if it’s a decade or so), he’ll prove himself good again and again.

In This Together,
Kim

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15 responses »

  1. Kim, I hope you don’t mind, but I reblogged this post, with a one-word introduction – “Brilliant”.

    Right now I spend 15-18 hours, every day, in a fetal position, trying to breathe past pain. When I stop breathing my service dogs do Canine CPR, which has resulted in broken ribs. I am, however, still alive. Thanks, guys!

    It’s OK. I don’t mind. We were never promised an easy life, and ‘having faith like a mustard seed’ means that we don’t even have that much (or where are the mountains being tossed seaward?). Our faith will not deliver us from pain, only from eternal damnation.

    Meanwhile, one does one’s best to be kind. That’s the deal.

    Hope this is coherent. I’m hurting, but doing my best.

    • Thanks so much for passing along this blog post, Andrew. I can’t imagine the kind of physical pain you’re describing. Emotional stuff is more than enough for me, but we don’t always get to choose, do we?

      I think about you when I’m blogging and hope you’ll comment so I know you’re hanging around. Your kindness is such a gift here. Thank you!

      Oh, about the dogs, I had no idea they could do that. I have to google and find out more.

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Wisdom: A Variety of Links | JoyReturns

  3. Kim, my heart breaks for you. I’ve been where you are. It is a sad place as you struggle to comprehend what we don’t understand. I tried to bargain when Sherry was first diagnosed asking God to take me, and not her. Watching her incredible example of acceptance, courage, and living life when it really mattered taught me that death is in God’s timing, but right now it’s all about the pain of your loss. I gained great comfort knowing she was ready to meet Jesus.

    We always pray for miracles. Sometimes we are lucky enough to receive one. Maybe the miracle in this situation is that the world was richly blessed by the presence of this wonderful man. Think of the lives he touched while on this earth which fulfilled his wish to make a difference. He is gone but he left a beautiful legacy of his example of living.

    Sending love, hugs, and prayers for you and John, Bishop Murphy’s family, and the congregation at The Abbey.

    • Oh, Agnes, thanks for commenting. I think about you and Sherry all the time. I was making Mickey Mouse scarves and y’all came to mind. I loved your mom/daughter craft projects. You made special memories together and left wonderful ones for those of us who followed y’all.

      Chuck left an extraordinary legacy. He lived life well and set an example for the rest of us.

      Thanks for your kind words! I love you. ❤

  4. Kim, What a wonderful post. I am so sorry 😢. The Abbey taught you so much with Father Chuck at the helm. I know grief and many times have come face to face with it. You question GOD and do bargain with him. You learned more from that church and CHUCK MURPHY than words can explain. I have a question, that was asked of me some time ago: Did you love Chuck and his church more than you love GOD?? That was a painful question for me, as I am sure it is for you. Ultimately you have to answer that. Don’t answer to me but to yourself. Chuck set the stage. It is up to you to Practice what he taught you. Be Christlike and finish what you have learned. The Lord Jesus was with him…, now allow The Lord Jesus be with you🙏🙏!! I love you my precious friend. I will continue to pray.

    • Lyn, thank you. ❤

      You said it well – I really can't explain all that I've learned from The Abbey and Chuck. He and Stu (our rector who took over when Chuck got sick) and our church are very conservative, yet I've never once felt judged; only convicted to live more for Jesus than ever before. I'm not sure how they do that because I remember trying to worship under other conservative ministers, but felt guilty most of the time, so there went the whole experience down the drain. It's like our little granddaughter says, "I can't even believe it!" … how much I've learned and grown under his leadership. ❤

      I'm surprised how easily the answer came to your question about loving Chuck and the church more than God. I love God more, for sure. However, in answering that, I realized that I trusted Chuck more because he's been consistent (and safe) for the 8 years I've known him. God, however, has not felt emotionally safe or necessarily trustworthy. Sometimes He heals, sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He makes sense to me, sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes he seems to care, sometimes he seems absent. It's small minded on my part, but it explains why this is such a BIG loss – I don't feel safe now.

      I'm not sure how to remedy it, but awareness is a start. I've always had trust issues, which I understand, but with God? I'd like to think He'll show me a way to some healing.

      I appreciate your comment and your prayers. I love you so much!

  5. Kim: You know I love you. You know we “get” one another. I so appreciate your honesty. And yes, I love what you said about giving God time. He’s got all the time in the world, doesn’t He? And so do we. He made us for eternity, too. Waiting with you …

  6. From Facebook (Kim Henson) ~

    Tiffany Halford, Wynn Archibald Godbold and 34 others

    1 Share

    Donna Feddick Fagerstrom Oh Kim, 😢 I’m so very sorry. We know His ways are not ours. I pray you give yourself permission to grieve? There’s no right or wrong way. Only the best way for you dear one.🙏❤️
    2

    Kim Henson Thank you so much, Donna Feddick Fagerstrom. ❤ I'm not questioning God's goodness, really, but plenty of other things like … why move to Pawleys now? Should we still build there? Why would God allow this when our church needs Chuck's leadership and we need his spiritual example? John and I are shaken, but, you're right, God doesn't go by my plans and I don't have to understand HIs. I'm grateful our church family and the leadership are strong and intact. It's a special place like nowhere else we've attended, which makes it harder to wrap our heads around. I appreciate your reassurance and prayers! I reread your book before passing it along to my mom-in-law.
    2

    Donna Feddick Fagerstrom Kim Henson …God led you to your property BEFORE your Pastor died.❤️
    Would you like more books?
    2

    Kim Henson Donna Feddick Fagerstrom, He did and He gave us signs or I would have never bought the lot. It was a big purchase. ❤ I'm good right now with the books unless someone comes to mind. I love having a resource to pass along. I just dropped it by my mother-in-law's house last night. Thank you again for sharing it.
    1

    Susan Blanton Roche Kim what a read! I cried with you thru the words of joy and sadness. I can't imagine what you and John are feeling but the good news is you're in it together! What you've experienced has brought you closer spiritually and mentally. God really is good all the time though sometimes we just can't see it. LYMI.
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Susan Blanton Roche! ❤ You've gotten to hear about this twice. I appreciate you listening and reading and commenting. It's been an emotional couple of weeks, for sure. Mickey should lighten the mood a bit! 🙂 I love you!
    1

    Angie Mojica Oh Kim, so sorry about your friend, this is beautifully written, he sounds like an awesome person to have known. ❤️❤️❤️ pray God gives you peace in the midst of grief.
    1

    Kim Henson I appreciate, Angie Mojica! ❤ He was an extraordinary leader and teacher. We were so fortunate to have stumbled onto both churches when we did. Neither one was close to where we live, but worth the drive.
    1

    Tiffany Halford I agree with C.S. Lewis and Winnie the Pooh. Grief is a difficult path to travel. What a blessing your friend was in your life. May God wrap you in His arms.
    2

    Kim Henson Thank you, Tiffany Halford! ❤ I love those sayings too. They're comforting. Chuck was a blessing to us and to so many others.
    1

    Mary Lou Anderson Eddings I'm so very sorry Kim. Such a devastating loss.

    Grief knows her way. Let her take you through it. Although, it may not be obvious to you, while you are grieving.
    1

    Kim Henson I like that, Mary Lou Anderson Eddings. Grief does know her way and it's best to give in to it. Thank you! ❤
    1

    Connie Rogers That was beautiful Kim. Thank you for sharing this with me.
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much for being here, Connie Rogers! ❤
    1

    Sally Butler Fitzgerald It is better to have loved & lost than to have never loved at all…he is in heaven smiling down on you & us all! Ty for sharing your loving thoughts!
    1

    Kim Henson Another quote I love, Sally Butler Fitzgerald. Thanks for the reminder. I appreciate your comment! ❤
    1

    Perry Tesh That’s beautiful. And yes I think we all question gods motives at times But God has the final answer He sounds like a true man of god. Bless you all and his family
    1

    Kim Henson Perry Tesh, he was an extraordinary teacher and leader. I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to learn from him. Thank you, my friend! ❤

    Debbie Stewart Richardson What a heartfelt message….thank you for sharing!
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Debbie Stewart Richardson! ❤ I'm happy you and I found each other on here.
    1

    Debbie Stewart Richardson I know, Kim! We know that we KNOW we understand the "grandchildren language"!
    1

    Kim Henson Debbie Stewart Richardson, that's us! ❤

    Debbie Stewart Richardson Where have u been hiding?
    1

    Kim Henson Debbie Stewart Richardson, Disney. ❤ We had a great time! Got back last night.
    1

    Debbie Stewart Richardson With your Grands?
    1

    Kim Henson Debbie Stewart Richardson, with Claire and Wyatt. ❤
    1

    Delilah Lewis Beautiful Kim we all grief different , but you and John are together so help on another .
    2

    Kim Henson I appreciate you so much, Delilah Lewis! ❤ Thanks for the encouragement.

    Maria Franken OMG This is a fantastic tribute to Chuck, and I understand more clearly your great loss. Thanks soo much for sharing this beautifully touching message. ((big hugs)) ❤
    1

    Kim Henson Awe, you're the best, Maria Franken! Thanks for reading and commenting. ❤ He was a special person, for sure.
    1

    Lisa D Tower-Couture This is beautiful, Kim. (I should not read your tributes with makeup on! "Sniff").
    1

    Kim Henson Lisa D Tower-Couture, mine was all cried off by the time I finished writing it. Thank you! ❤
    1

    Wynn Archibald Godbold Not sure what to say. Beautifully written and soul stirring. Sorry for your loss.
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Wynn Archibald Godbold. ❤ I'm so grateful I knew him.
    1

    Jo Jenkins Brehn Kim, so sorry, but remember he is going to a better place, The goal of all Christian people. Just think of him dancing and rejoicing in the streets of gold. One day, you will be able to dance with him.
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Jo Jenkins Brehn! ❤ I know he's right at home.

    Margo M Stilley You certainly have a way with words Kim.💗
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Margo M Stilley! ❤ I miss you.

    Elizabeth McNew Beautifully said. 💗🙏🏻
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Elizabeth McNew! ❤ Have you been to Rebecca's new studio to paint. It's really great. I'd love to run into you there sometime. 🙂
    1

    Elizabeth McNew Kim Henson I may have to wait until summer since we homeschool. It looks amazing, and I’m dying to paint again!!! I’ll let you know when I go and see if you’re going, too.
    1

    Kim Henson Elizabeth McNew, yes, let me know and I'll try to go at the same time. I'd love to see you in person again. ❤
    1

    Eileen Curran Gillespie So beautifully written Kim…I am so sorry for your pain…I know, though, that God knows your pain and understands your tears and questions…aren't we alot like His first 12?
    The things that happen to us, especially death, in this broken world, are sometimes so hard to accept and live through…
    I can say today, though, that I no longer question, "Why God"? …only bc of some very painful experiences and His Holy Spirit. ..
    And His healing..we know He is the Healer, but it's still so hard when we have to wait for it or it doesn't look like the healing we want..
    I love the picture of Chuck "dancing with Jesus in Heaven"!
    (Talk about healing!)
    This is the picture you can remember during each service..and so…
    he IS still there…and here…
    I have "seen" my parents and brother praising God in song, with me, as I join in Praise and Worship each Sunday morning. ..
    What comforts me the most, when my heart aches bc I miss my Mom and Dad, is knowing they are with family and friends in the Presence of our God in Heaven….and the "signs", like Glory Food field peas, are so wonderful..I see them often…Sometimes an answer or confirmation from God…Sometimes a hello~I love you, from my parents…
    Sorry to be so long, Kim…
    Love you…
    Also remember that grieving~is healing…you're allowed to feel what you're feeling…however long it takes… Thinking of you and John, and your Church family with much love and many hugs. .. xox 💖
    1

    Kim Henson I love every word, Eileen Curran Gillespie! ❤ You could have kept writing and writing. There is lots of comfort in what you shared. I love my signs! Sometimes they get me through when nothing else does. 🙂 Much love to you! I'm so happy we're on here together.

    Diane Franczak Very touching tribute to God and your pastor…….
    1

    Kim Henson Diane Franczak, thanks so much for saying it's a tribute to God. That's an added bonus I didn't plan. ❤
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    Patricia Susie Haselden Saw this and thought of you, hope it helps. https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3087559
    We all are guilty of questioning God. His ways are not our ways. Pastor got his healing, not like the healing of the body here on earth to stay and continue, but he is pain free now and happy. I know he will be missed dearly by family and friends(thoughts and prayers to all during this difficult time and the times ahead.) He is dancing in Heaven.
    Continue going to church and growing in God (thats what your Pastor would want)and think of all the good that your Pastor has done and the lives he has touched. You and John talk and share your thoughts with each other. Continue with your plans to build your home and do your manuscript. I think Pastor and God would like for you to continue what you love doing… Love and prayers! 💖

    It's Cancer: God, Why Didn't You Heal Them?
    HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
    2

    Kim Henson Thanks so much for sharing, Patricia Susie Haselden. ❤ This is a wonderful article. I hope everyone on the thread will take time to read it. Also, thanks for your thoughtful comment. It and the article helped. Much love!
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    Megan Hunt Dell I haven’t read others’ comments, but for me, it helps to distinguish between whether God is good and my anger with Him: He’s not not-good because I’m hurting, and having an intimate relationship with Him includes being angry at things I disagree with Him about. I have yelled and screamed at God for the injustice and unfairness of this life, and then I pray for peace.

    Much like my marriage, it’s okay for me to be angry, as long as that anger isn’t an excuse for pulling away from the relationship.
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    Kim Henson Awe, I love this, Megan Hunt Dell. I've done plenty of being angry with God and I like your comparison to marriage. It's true, but this time around, it's not anger. I think I feel unsafe with God for the first time in a long time. I know He understands more than I do, so I'm trying to sit still and not be so afraid and panicked like I feel some days.

    Rilla A. Thomas Kim, your words are so true and comforting to those of us who believe in the sovereignty of our God. I will be in prayer for your church family as you move ahead into a new season.
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    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Rilla A. Thomas. ❤ We need the prayers so much! Tonight was our annual parish meeting and it was comforting to hear Chuck's vision (which was, of course, God's vision) talked about, honored, and a plan put in place to move forward with it.

    Beth Stallings Odom So touching to read. Thinking of you and John.
    1

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Beth Stallings Odom! ❤ We appreciate it.
    1

    Barbara Hilgeman WOW, just WOW!!
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    Kim Henson Please say lots of prayers for The Abbey and us, Barbara Hilgeman! Love you. ❤

    Delilah Lewis That is beautiful Kim Henson. May God give you and John peace with that lovely person you describe.
    1

    Kim Henson Thank you, Delilah Lewis! When things like this happen, the world slows down and the important stuff bubbles to the top. ❤ Already there are blessings coming from it.

    Lori DiDio Beautifully written Kim, love the reference to Winnie the Pooh.. and I believe God answers our prayers – just not on our time frame or the way we want them, but there continue always signs..
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    Kim Henson I appreciate your comment and your prayers, Lori DiDio. I've always heard God answers every prayer – yes, no, or wait. ❤ I love His signs and wonders. I wish this time around it had gone our way, but pain is a powerful teacher, I know. Our church has …See More

    Frances Dennis Kim, I am hugging you in my mind right now! I hope you can feel it. Thank you for your message.
    1

    Kim Henson Awe, thanks, Frances Dennis! ❤ I appreciate your concern and love. Please keep us and The Abbey in your prayers.
    Manage
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