Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Carpenter Family

I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to the wonderful family that God has blessed me with. My wife, Alice, is standing in the middle-back. Caroline, age 13, is standing next to Alice. Mary (9) and Bobby (8) are in the front row.

This picture was taken at Christmas while we were still living in Asia. I realize that the picture is a little old, but we really like this one so I thought it would be appropriate to post.

Alice has a blog also. You can find hers at Thinking As A Woman.

We also have a website for Bobby (forgive me if I have given this site before). You can find it at Caring Bridge -- Bobby.

I'd also like to thank three friends for mentioning "Hammer and Nail" on their blogs. Thank you to my good buddy Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church. Another thank you goes out to Dr. David Black, a former professor of mine. His blog can be found at Dave Black Online. A final big "thanks" to Nick Kennicott at Nick-Nacks, Notes, and Notions.

Now if I can just figure out where the little picture of me went that used to be in the "About Me" section of this blog, I will be all set.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Question #1: Why does my child have to suffer?

Prior to answering this question, I need to quickly mention a couple of things. First, scripture (not experience) will be the authority. Second, I will try to keep an eternal perspective in all this.

So, why does Bobby, my only son of 8 years, have to suffer? If I can step back for a moment, this seems like quite a self-focused question. As if somehow it would be OK for others to suffer, but not for my child. A better question may be, "Why does anyone have to suffer?"

Three answers spring to mind. First, suffering exists because sin exists. I cannot recall any suffering in the Garden of Eden. Nor will there be any suffering in heaven. However, during this time a great deal of suffering exists. Just watch the national news any night.

Adam sinned; therefore we all sin. Romans 5:12 tells us, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Suffering happens because sin happens.

Second, we know that Jesus Christ suffered. For those of us who are Christians, we cherish His suffering because it brings us life. Isaiah 53:3-5 says, "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." As if this was not enough, II Cor. 5:21 says, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." If our Lord, our Savior, and our Example suffered, why should we not do the same? I Peter 2:21 simply states, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps."

Third, suffering is a gift from God. What? Now that flies in the face of comfortable Christianity. It is true. It is biblical. In Phil. 1:29, Paul writes, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." The wording in the original language makes it clear that both belief in Christ and suffering for Christ are gifts. What good does this do? Romans 5:3-5 informs us that tribulations produce hope. Phil. 3:4-14 lets us know that suffering for Christ draws us closer to Him. So even though it may be difficult for us to see or even admit, suffering is a gift of God.

I realize that the immediate context of many of the above passages is one of suffering directly for the cause of Christ. However, I believe the principles taught can apply to a wider range of suffering, including illness.

So when I want to ask why my child has to suffer, I must remember that suffering exists because sin exists, that Christ suffered so we should expect the same, and that suffering is ultimately a gift from God.

One last thing to keep in mind: God does not have to answer the "Why?" question. When God answered Job in chapter 38:1-3, the text says, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me."

I have to admit that I still do not like it that Bobby has to suffer. I can't stand watching him be in pain. However, I cannot let my experience supersede what the Bible says. Let's all stand on the scriptures.

It's not Burkitt's after all

Life can be a funny thing. Just yesterday I began this blog and wrote about how Bobby has Burkitt's Lymphoma. Today my wife, Alice, took Bobby in to the oncologist for routine blood work. It turns out that Bobby does not actually have Burkitt's, but rather a Burkitt's-like cancer called Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. It is still cancer, and it requires the same treatment as Burkitt's. I guess the only down-side is that Burkitt's was easier to say.

We have a website where we update how Bobby is feeling and progressing. We also discuss how our family is coping with these changes in our lives. If you would like to read more about it, please go to

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why does my son have to suffer?

My only son, Bobby, has cancer. He was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma less than one month ago. Since that time, he has undergone several tests and treatments (including chemotherapy) that have been painful. He has a central-line in his chest. Now his hair has begun to fall out. Some boys would like this; Bobby does not. He is just now starting to feel better, but next week we have to go back into the hospital for another week so that Bobby can have his second round of chemo. Why does he have to suffer?

Since this is a new blog, I will briefly introduce myself. My name is Eric. I trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have been blessed by God with a terrific wife and three wonderful children. I am a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. My wife and I were recently serving the Lord overseas when we noticed a lump on Bobby’s neck. After seeing several doctors about this, we decided that we needed to get home to the USA as quickly as possible. Soon after arriving, we found out that Bobby has Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Burkitt’s falls in the family of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas.

Although Burkitt’s is generally treatable, it is still cancer. Although it is a better diagnosis than either Leukemia or Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, it is still cancer. This means many treatments and needles. That means pain. Why does my child have to suffer?

Suffering is an interesting topic to talk about in a seminary classroom. It is altogether different when it strikes your family. For me, suffering went from theory to reality in about a minute. With my child suffering, many questions jumped to my mind. These questions included: 1) Why does my child have to suffer? 2) Does God want my child to be healed? 3) How can a perfectly good, perfectly omnipotent God allow my child to suffer? 4) Does God allow or cause suffering? 5) What does all this say about the character of God?

The above questions have obviously been wrestled with by men wiser and more knowledgeable than I am. However, because of the situation my family is now in, I wanted to deal with these issues.

Most likely, we will all experience different types and intensities of suffering if we live more than a few years. The temptation in our individualistic, self-focused society is to draw our conclusions (and answers to the above 5 questions) from our life experiences. However, this will lead to a multitude of answers. Is that what we want? More important, is that accurate and correct?

Clearly, the answers to these five questions cannot be drawn from experience. It is important that we all get our answers from a much more reliable, truthful source. That source, of course, in the scriptures. But, what does the Bible have to say about suffering?

A key in all of this is that we should try to deal with this issue before we are in the midst of suffering and pain. When we hurt, it is far too easy to look at our own situation, and then blame God for being unfair.

I will attempt to tackle these five questions in upcoming blog entries. If you have any input, please let me know. I’ll conclude with the following:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” I Peter 4:12-13