Where is God when you need Him most?
In the last quarter of 1997, during my first unit of CPE (clinical pastoral education) in Beth-Israel Medical Center, I was paged as the chaplain on duty to attend to the needs of a dying 37-year-old cancer patient. His father and two women, probably mother and sister, were also present. I soon discovered he was Catholic and what they wanted was the last rite, which I couldn’t administer. I paged the on-call Catholic chaplain and returned to the bedside.
The father, with a goatee, stood still, motionless. Suddenly, he’d had enough. He bolted for the elevator. I hurried after him. In the elevator he banged his head against the wall several times. It was a ride to nowhere; first we went to the top floor, then back to the street level. “Where is God when you need Him most? Where?” He looked around in the elevator as if God would show up somewhere. “Religion is fallacy. God?” He spat. Mentioning God’s name made him sick to his stomach. “I cannot say don’t take my son because you are God, but please take him at one, two or three years old. Why wait till he’s 37, so it can pain me? What kind of God (he spat) is that?”
We were now out of the elevator and on the street level. He changed his tone; no longer anger at God but gratitude to me. He turned to me. “I thank you. You stayed with me. You followed me; you didn’t have to, but you did. But God (he spat) where is God? I thank you. You are a good person. You don’t know me but you held my hand; you didn’t leave me alone. I thank you.” Then we parted ways.
It wasn’t a time to share my wisdom with this discouraged and angry father. I probably would have told him that I might have been on assignment; that God might have ordered my steps to be with him at that particular time. If he could possibly admit that God orchestrated the whole meeting. I might be God-sent to him for that purpose. But that was not the time to share wisdom. I just let him vent and rant.
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