WHEN LIFE DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

In a world replete with success philosophy and prosperity preachers, how does one make sense of life when tragedy hits and one has no mental framework or faith construct to deal?

'One-week celebration' poster of a friend and junior medical colleague (credit: Ben and Kingsley)

‘One-week celebration’ banner of a friend and junior medical colleague

Man! February 2017 was one nasty month—humanly speaking. Tragedy upon tragedy. Within a week a friend and co-worker gets a stroke in Canada, a mentee loses her grandfather in France, another (a former international student in Belgium) loses her dad in Ghana… and then, as if these weren’t enough, the month wouldn’t end without the loss of a friend, a younger medical colleague in Ghana!

In fact, today is the ‘one-week celebration’ of the latter (picture above). Man! Akua was barely 31! I remember her beautiful countenance, not only from her internship days at the 37 Military Hospital when I was a medical officer there, but even only last November (2016) while I was in Ghana I had the joy of seeing her in her home. What had happened was that my bosom friend and brother Ben had urged me to come along with him to visit a school mate of his (and fellow church member) who had recently suffered a stroke. Prior to that I had no clue it was Akua’s home we were visiting—and that she was the young wife of Kofi. (As it turned out later, Kofi is actually the classmate of my wife, Anyele, from primary school).

My heart sank when I saw this hitherto strong young man, Kofi, wheelchair-bound and struggling to utter a few words from a seriously contorted face. This young man who was working in the insurance world had barely been married a few months when he suddenly had this stroke. Not even surgical interventions in the United Kingdom had salvaged the sad situation. Yet it was gratifying to observe his faith and how strongly supportive his young bride had been from the beginning up until the day I visited them, nursing him with love. The smart, pretty doctor now had a husband for a live-in patient.. O boy did I pray my heart and lungs out!

So imagine my shock last week. I had missed a phone call in the midst of busy travel. When I finally got to call back the conversation went something like this.

“Yaw, do you remember Kofi whom you prayed for?”

“Aha, of course.” (They say fear and faith don’t mix–well, at that moment I had both somehow.)

“Kofi’s wife just died!”

“Huh? Ben, what are you saying?”

“Yes oo, Yaw. Kofi’s wife, Akua, just died!”

“What?!!What’s going on?!” …

My friends Ben and Kingsley at the 'one week celebration'

My friends Ben and Kingsley at the ‘one week celebration’

BRINGING IT HOME

Silence. Sadness. … Sometimes, life just doesn’t make sense and it would be interesting to hear what strictly-prosperity preachers have to say to these things. As for atheists and agnostics, I don’t know how they make it through life but for me, without God there is neither hope nor any sense to life. Yet then again, like David Bosch puts it in A Spirituality of the Road, “A god who provides all the answers becomes an explicable and comprehensible god, but also ceases to be God.” Bosch continues to share about an Albert Schweitzer (French-German physician and theologian) experience:

“Albert Schweitzer, in recollecting the ten years he taught catechism classes to boys in Strassbourg before the First World War, noted that after the war some of those young men thanked him that he had shown them so clearly that the Christian faith does not explain everything. This awareness enabled them to survive spiritually in the trenches, whereas many others, who were told that Christianity provided all the answers, lost their faith when faced with that which was inexplicable.”

But this was my shocker: the story of a piece of paper found among the ruins of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw after the Second World War. It is said to contain the last words of a certain Jew, Jessel Rakover, as he was preparing himself for an impending violent riot aimed at the persecution and massacre of his ethnic/religious group. The portion of Bosch quotes in A Spirituality of the Road gives me the chills. Here goes:

I believe in you, God of Israel, even if you have tried your best to dissuade me to believe in you. I believe in your laws, even if I cannot approve of the way you manage things. … I bow my head before your majesty, but I will not kiss the rod with which you hit me. … I would like to say to you that at this moment, more even than in any previous period of our eternal struggle for survival, we, the tortured, the humiliated, buried alive, burnt alive, insulted, mocked, we, murdered by million, that we have the right to know: until when are you going to allow it to continue? …I say this to you because I believe in you, more than ever before, because I know now, with absolute certainty, that you are my God, because you cannot be the God of those whose deeds are the most horrendous expression of godlessness; … I die in peace, but not appeased; persecuted, but not enslaved; embittered, but not cynical; a believer, but not pleading; a man who loves God, but does not say amen to everything. I have followed God even when he had flung me down, tortured me, and made me an object of humiliation and derision. And these are my last words to you my angry God: all this will do you no good. You have done everything possible to destroy my faith, yet I am dying precisely as I have lived, saying: ‘Shma Yishrael, hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, one Lord.’ Into your hands, O God, I commit my spirit.”

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Are there any more persons on earth who have such stubborn faith? Any of the Augustine stock who would say, “For it is better for them to find you and leave the question unanswered than to find the answer without finding you”?

I just got off the phone this morning with a young man who lost two of his sisters in a tragic car accident a few years ago—and their father is a world-renowned preacher who as at this very morning was still doing his Lord’s bidding in London, UK. That day, apart from the two teenage girls, four other church members lost this lives. I knew and loved those dainty girls, especially the 19-year old whom I had grown fond of since her high school days! Tell me, how many preachers have a theological framework that can contain such inexplicable tragedy?

It is easy to talk about tragic Job and weeping Jeremiah or even Jesus whose life was cut short at 33. But as the Japanese theologian Koyama challenges, “Jeremiah and Jesus place their trust in the forsaking God! There is no longer the faith built upon God’s obvious answer. They believed in God even though God did not answer! … Here we do not see an answer-theology. We see instead a relationship-theology.”

I ask again. In a world replete with success philosophy and prosperity theology, how does one make sense of life when tragedy hits and one has no mental framework or faith construct to deal with it? Who is willing to “place their trust in the forsaking God” in a ‘God-forsaken’ place? This is hard; but such is life.

  • Odasani D’Giorgio

    Well shared Yaw….

  • Odasani D’Giorgio

    Well shared Yaw….We will understand it better, by and by.

    • Yaw Perbi

      Maybe bro; but maybe not–on this side of Jordan. But on the other side, oh yes! FULLY!

      • Nana Nketia Perbi

        My dear elder brother, the modern Church is not built to last. The modern, prosperity-drunk, money-grubbing, success-brainwashed believer cannot handle tragedy. Sad, because Scripture is replete with similar stories of tragedy and the strength God supplies in the midst of those “unfortunate” circumstances.

        • Yaw Perbi

          Spot on, precious brother!

  • Jonathan Apemah-Gyimah

    Yaw, God bless you. I wrap my comment in this Chinese folklore:
    Old Sai loses his horse

    A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?” Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” Their household was richer by a fine horse, which the son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?”

    A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

    My lesson:
    God is our final answer. He knows it from the end to the beginning.

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen! God in my beginning, God in my end, God in my E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, amen!

  • Tosin Iyawo Ogaga

    Hmmm. Kofi is my friend, and for the past few days I’ve found myself shaking my head. What can we say? What can we really say? Nothing! Thank you for putting our ‘nothing’ into words, Yaw. Thanks.

    • Yaw Perbi

      O for more grace, Tosin!

  • Frank Dartey Amankonah

    Akua was my mate in medical school… Such a lovely person. Always smiling. I still can’t believe it 😭

    • Yaw Perbi

      Tough one, Frank. May God comfort you and your cohort. And enable you dig deep into what really counts!

  • Cher Che

    Nice piece Nana Yaw…it’s truly a tough one rationalizing such a situation but I suppose that’s what having faith is all about…believing and trusting Gods ways…It’s well…we pray Akua and all the other departed souls , find their resting place in God’s bosom….🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen! Tough, indeed! You should check out the story behind the hymn “It is well.” It’s been a long time, we need to meet up (God-willing I’ll be in Ghana in April!)
      Love ya!

      • Cher Che

        I sure wld look it up… indeed it has been long…I shd be in accra in April … hopefully u make time … 0540205907… hola anytime…regards to
        Anyele and the “Perbi-lets”…

  • Sam Muthu

    Akua was my mate in French class. she is so humble and pleasant person. May her soul rest in peace.

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen! She’s certainly at rest; no doubt. Amazing how such a young life can go through so much in such a short time!

  • miimi smison

    I worked with kofi in the insurance

    company. We became good friends. He actually got married a week after i did.
    Its sad. We Will never understand but we Will continue to trust knowing that some day it will make sense.. even if it doesnt… we will continue to trust.

    • Yaw Perbi

      You’ve got it, Miimi!
      What do they say ‘FAITH’ is an acronym for? Forsaking All I Trust Him? You’ve got it, babe!

  • Angela Dela Amafu-Forfoe

    Hmmmmm just got weak after reading… i once read my mums tribute saying no matter how many times i ask God i wont understand why… we can only say the earth is never our permanent place of stay.we all dont know where. May the souls of the departed RIP

    • Yaw Perbi

      A harsh reminder, but you’ve got the lesson right and right attitude. Amen to your prayer, Angela, and may God keep your faith strong.

  • Dicta

    On Friday, I had the same feeling just the David Bosch. I said, Lord if seeing me in the painful state brings Glory to you…then its up to you. If every disappointment am facing now praises your name…so be it. But I said , at the end of the day, he is still God regardless whatever horse sh** I encounter in this life…
    Yaw great write up.

    May her soul rip

    • Yaw Perbi

      God is not a sadist; but yes, certainly sometimes what brings Him the highest glory totally baffles us–like a cruel death of his only begotten son on a cross so that you and I could be saved. Keep looking up; looking anywhere else can be discouraging. Aluta continua, Dicta!

  • Prosper Tedeku

    It’s sad. Its senseless, its perishable.life is frial, its intangible so one cannot hold on to it forever. Thats why the circumstances surrounding it never makes sense. Imagine you fall into a deep sleep and you just realised that you’ve been pushed off a flight. Imagine the shock and fear. Imagine the many things your brain will begin to process. More quicker than a high speed train in Tokyo. That’s life soo delicate. We can’t hold on to it forever

    • Yaw Perbi

      You’re right Prosper! The only thing worth holding on to is God himself. No wonder Job said, “even though He slay me yet will I trust Him!”
      Be blessed!

  • Will Nana Danso-Abeam

    My heart is heavy as I read through this piece…… We need grace, Yaw.

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen and amen to the prayer for GRACE–God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense!

  • Fosua Fosikii

    I know Akua and I legit heard the whole story 3hours ago….I am soooo broken! I am not sure I can even utter a word..May her soul rest in peace and may the Lord do a miracle in her husband’s life

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen and amen! Grace for you. IT IS WELL!
      May we all still be fastened to the Rock which cannot move/be moved, when this storm is over!

  • Emmanuel Sarkodie

    Dr. Adjapong mentored me at Legon Hospital during my internship. Death knows no nice people. May her lovely soul RIP

    • Yaw Perbi

      True. There’s gotta be more to life than just ‘nice’.
      May you discover all that truly matters!

  • Kwame Mensa-Bonsu

    You are deep….I admire your faith. God bless

    • Yaw Perbi

      But for the grace of God what is there to celebrate, my brother. Grace and grace and grace alone! As for me, Luke 17:10 ALWAYS 🙂
      Blessings, Kwame!

  • Joojo Gowans

    hmmmm. This God that we serve, hmmm. we will only understand better bye and bye

    • Yaw Perbi

      True!
      “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12, NIV)

  • Perpetua Agyei-Tuffour

    hmmm,… O for Grace to trust you more Lord…Great piece …May she RIP

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen and amen, Perpetua!

  • Rebecca Asare

    Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Still trusting in God n no one else.

    • Yaw Perbi

      Amen, Rebecca!

  • Rebecca Asare

    She was my senior in jhs. Pls wat happened? Hmmmmmmm….d only daughter of my teacher, Miss Ocloo.

    • Yaw Perbi

      Tragic but yes, may we have a ‘relationship theology’ not just an ‘answer theology.’ May our faith be as ‘stubborn’ as Jeremiah’s and Jesus’ and Job’s and Rakover’s and…

  • Naomi Kokuro

    Wooow you just spoke to me because i have been asking God for answers but sometimes he never talks but my faith wont be shaken again

  • Felix Ameyaw

    You sat beside us and even shared your lunch with us…little did we know that it was your last week and we coudnt get the chance to say thank you..May God keep your soul Akua. RIP my sister..

  • Baffour Asare

    May she rest in peace. God knows the best.

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  • Nana Kofi Acquah

    This i such a beautifully written piece, that seeks to answer one of life and theology’s most difficult question: “Why do bad things happen to good people, if there is a just God?”

    Personally, I find the old hymns a great place to go for comfort and strength when life doesn’t make sense. And life won’t make sense sometimes. God, however, will always be God… and even when life doesn’t make sense, He is always faithful.