By Fr. Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Two weeks ago, a middle-aged man left his residence in Lagos and was heading to an unknown destination. An eyewitness saw him walking towards the Third Mainland Bridge. His mind was full of nagging problems. He married a troublesome wife with whom he has lived for twelve turbulent years. They were living like cat and mouse. The worst was that they were childless. As if enough was not enough, a mysterious inferno engulfed the man's shop situated along a busy street in Lagos. Nothing was recovered from the fire; not even a piece of paper. The most painful was that the four hundred thousand naira cash he kept in the shop was burnt to ashes. He became helpless and down spirited.
On that fateful day, as he walking across the bridge, he was soliloquizing like a mad man. He opened his two arms widely and asked, “Oh God, why? Why me?” He sighed loudly and hopelessly. Then he ran forward and jumped over the bridge into the lagoon. He wanted to end his life on that day, because, according to him, God has not been fair to him at all.
As he was struggling to die inside the lagoon, hundreds of big and small fishes in the lagoon surrounded him and were praising God for providing food for them. Fortunately some fishermen were in their boats fishing at that time. When they saw what was happening, they dived into the lagoon in an effort to rescue the hopeless man. As they were doing so, those fishes were angry and were struggling to prevent the divers from rescuing the hopeless middle-aged man. Luckily, the men overpowered the fish and brought the man alive into one of their boats. The fish started asking, “Oh God, why?” The divers paddled the boat and brought the drowning hopeless man on the sea shore. They gave him first aid by squeezing out the water in his belly and doing the mouth to mouth resuscitation.
When he regained consciousness, he got up quickly and tried to jump into the lagoon again. The fishermen caught him like a stubborn fish. One of them gave him a hot slap and asked him, “Are you foolish? Why do you want to kill yourself by all means?” He sighed and replied, “God disappointed me front and back. Therefore, I decided to die rather living a hopeless life.” He was handed over to the police for attempted suicide. The police threw him behind the bars. He was shouting daily inside the cell, “Oh God, why?” In order to maintain peace and tranquility, the policemen on duty sealed his mouth with plaster and bandage.
In the Book of Job we read how Job, who a prosperous man, was struck with calamities by the devil. He lost everything including all his children. At a point his wife mocked him for being a righteous man and yet suffering all those calamities. She then asked her husband Job to curse God and die. Job ignored her suggestion and said, “You talk foolishly. If we receive good things from God, why can't we accept evil from him?” He remained faithful in his sorrow. When his three friends heard of what has befallen Job, they trekked from their far distant homes to visit him. At their arrival, what they saw baffled them. They could not recognize Job again. Job lay in ashes and was dying in silence. His friends cried and cried.
After a long torture and silence, Job couldn't bear it again. He cursed the day he was born in these words: “Cursed be the day I was born, and the night which whispered: A boy has been conceived. May that day be dark, may God on high ignore it. May no light shine upon it” (Job 3: 3 – 4). Furthermore Job asked, “Why did I not die at birth, or come from the womb without breath? Why the knees that received me? Why the breasts that suckled me?” (Job 3: 11 -12).
In the long run God answered Job, “Who is this that obscures divine plans with ignorant words? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!” (Job 38: 1 – 5). Job was dumbfounded. He surrendered to divine will and said, “I know you are all-powerful: what you conceive, you can perform. I am the man who obscured your designs with my empty-headed words. I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand, on marvels beyond me and my knowledge. I knew you then only by hearsay; but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract all I have said, and in dust and ashes I repent” (Job 42: 1 – 5).
Please have you ever asked God 'Why?' at any moment of your life? Kindly retract the 'why' now before the hammer strikes. Often when things we do not expect happen, or certain persons die, we often ask, “Oh God, why?” Something strange happened to a certain man while the body of his departed lovely and only son was lying in state. The man in question was crying profusely as he was paying last respect to his departed only son. In fact he couldn't control his anger, tears and emotion. He opened his mouth wide, sighed and shouted, “Oh God, why did you do this to me?” Walking a pole forward, God replied him the why by striking him hard on the spinal cord. Instantly, he could not walk again. Sympathizers rushed him immediately to hospital. All medical applications to resuscitate him proved abortive. He lay in pains for months.
One day a priest gifted in healing visited him. As the priest was praying over the incapacitated man, he received a revelation on the cause of the sudden and protracted spinal cord illness. The revelation explained that the man was struck by God for confronting Him. Who are we to question God? The helpless man cried and retracted his 'why.' He repented and confessed the blasphemy. Instantly, he was healed. Since that day till today, he removed the word 'why' from his memory and replaced it with 'Oh God, well-done!'
Prior to the above incidence, I was preaching the Word of God to my parishioners one day on the Book of Job and what befell him. Despite Job's innocence, God allowed those calamities to happen to him. I asked the people if they have any questions to ask God, if they see Him. Many shouted, “Yes!” One of them stood up and said, “Father, on my own part, I have many questions to ask God if I see him. Some things I do not understand are happening in my life and in my family despite my strong Faith.” I asked him and the others to remain calm and that we shall find time to write out those questions to be posed to God.
After hearing the story of the man struck at the spinal cord for asking God 'why' the worried man from my parish came to me with sweat running down from all over his body. He fell on his knees trembling and said to me, “Please father, I have retracted my questions for God to answer. I will not ask Him those 'whys' again. From today onwards, I have decided to accept whatever happens to me. Who am I to question God?”
In all circumstances, no matter how bad, let us never despair. God's time is the best. A certain elderly woman from my place had five daughters and two sons. She was very pious in church affairs. But she was very sad that her daughters were growing too old for marriage despite her prayers to God. As time went by, she couldn't bear it again. She drank poison and died quietly in her sleep. An autopsy was carried out on her remains. It was discovered that she committed suicide by drinking poison. She was then buried like a foolish fowl. Few months after her shameful death, her five daughters married one after the other. I wish the dead woman should come back to life and see!
When you are under arrest, the warrant police officer cautions, “You better keep silent, because anything you say now will be used against you in the Law Court.” Likewise, when certain things happen in our lives, we should rather keep silent and remain prayerful. We shall live to regret any emotional utterance against God. Beware of your spinal cord. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. God's ways are not our own ways. Also God's thoughts are not own thoughts. The will of God must be done and not ours. That is why Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be your Name. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” Everything in heaven and earth is shaped by God. Even our life belongs to God. Who are we to question Divine Will?
During his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus knelt down and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mtt. 26:39). God did not remove the cup of suffering from Jesus. He drank the cup at Calvary by being crucified on the Cross. Hence the Lord Jesus says, “If you wish to be my disciple, renounce yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Our duty as Christians is to pray always in good times and in bad times. God answers prayers according to his will and at his own time. This world is not a bed of roses. That is why the baby cries immediately at birth.
I still remember how I cried on the day I was born. My mother, the midwife and the nurses around found it difficult to console me. I cried over the impending difficulties I would experience in this world. That cry is compulsory. If any baby refuses to cry at birth, the midwife will force it to cry by beating. Hence we ought to do the will of the Almighty Father who knows everything. He knows the reasons why certain things happen in our lives. We must learn to surrender ourselves and everything to God. Let us always sing the Song: “All to Jesus I surrender!” Have you surrendered? If not, why not?
Finally, our country Nigeria is in great distress. We have been asking why we have been suffering in this country 58 years after Independence. Surely, God blessed us with abundant natural and human resources. Our problem is bad leadership and bad followership. We pray strenuously for divine intervention as the 2019 general elections are around door step. The primary elections of all political parties have come and gone. For some, it was a do or die affair. Some candidates emerged victoriously in a free and fair election while some were products of rigging. Let us arm ourselves with Prayer and our Permanent Voter's Cards (PVC) to sift the chaff from the wheat, come 2019. We must change the failed change. In God we trust!