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dean damon

counselor

Reconciling the goodness of God with the suffering on earth might be one of the most difficult concepts for any Christian to grasp, and as a kid who grew up with one of my closest friends having a rare form of childhood leukemia, it was an issue that came to the surface early. I remember walking with him through his skin-thinning treatments and weight loss for many years wondering why God was letting his cancer come back so many times without intervening. My friend’s struggle ended up taking his life during my freshman year of high school, which left me with even more questions. I knew that God had been faithful in the past to bring him into remission in situations that should have taken his life years before, and I struggled with the fact that it was never final, and it seemed that suffering was always more reliable than God’s goodness. It was a deep ingrained doubt that took years to remove from my mind, and one that I honestly still struggle with. That being said, the Lord has been so patient with me and has been lovingly showing me that His goodness never fails even in the midst of a broken world. And that was a message that was essential for me to believe when I had a camper in my cabin who had brain cancer. This camper had brain surgery three months prior to remove the tumor, but some of it was imbedded in his blood vessels so they had to leave it. He didn’t know at the time, but the day he got back from camp he was going to be flown into San Antonio to a hospital there to start radiation. One of his closest friends was also in my cabin, who had become a follower of Christ the year before but since his friend’s diagnosis had turned away from church. Both of them were struggling with the same question that I was wrestling with when I was their age—how can God be good in the midst of so much suffering? Getting to know them and their hearts opened up a lot of deep wounds that I thought I had dealt with, but I quickly realized I still had a lot to work through. Talking with them, however, gave me the opportunity and privilege to help them work through their situations as well as get to work through things myself. I understood what they were going through and where their hearts were, because I was in their shoes at their age, and because of that I was able to minister to them like other people couldn’t—as a friend who was just a couple steps further down the same road. I was able to say things to my camper with brain cancer that I wish I could’ve told my best friend, and I was able to speak into his friend’s life what I wish someone would’ve told me when I was struggling. It was beautiful to see the hope and joy return to both of them with a quiet strength, and to finally deal with the guilt I had felt for not being able to help my friend more than I did, or say more to encourage him, or tell him that I loved him. Because in this one beautiful brush stroke, the Lord both gave me closure in being able to do all of the things for this camper I wish I could’ve done for my friend, and gave both of those young men hope and confidence in Him and His goodness for all time, no matter how broken this world is or will be. For those boys, this was the beginning of a hard and beautiful journey; for me, I can finally say about the guilt and pain that I carried around for so long, that it is finished.