Hobe Sound resident Sherwood Graham recalls the tough questions his wife, Elizabeth, blurted out through her tears one Sunday several months ago. The Grahams were driving to the hospital after church to visit their daughter Lauren, a Palm Beach Atlantic University student who was in a coma at that time following an automobile crash on June 5.
|Palm Beach Atlantic University student Lauren Graham, second from left, poses for a photo with her parents, Elizabeth and Sherwood Graham, following chapel services earlier this week. Also pictured are Campus Ministries Director Mark Kaprive, far left, and Campus Pastor Bernie Cueto, far right.|
“She asked, ‘Did Lauren do something wrong? Is God punishing her for something?’” Graham said, speaking in PBA’s DeSantis Family Chapel on Monday.
Before he could respond, his wife followed up with two more questions: “Is God trying to teach us something? Did we do something wrong?”
Graham said she is not the first person ever to ask those questions. “Whenever tragedy strikes, again and again all thoughtful people want to know, why? If God is so good, then why did this happen? And if He is so powerful, then why didn’t He stop it?”
Graham, a businessman and father of two, said Jesus answered similar questions posed by his disciples about the man who was blind from birth in John 9:1-4. The disciples wondered whether the man or his parents had sinned, resulting in his blindness.
While rooted in Biblical precedent, the question relied on some assumptions, namely that all suffering is divine retribution, and that all suffering has a particular cause, Graham said.
“If we share this assumption that all suffering is a consequence of particular sin, it will stymie our growth. It will paralyze us with fear and doubt and condemnation,” he said.
In reality, “all suffering comes from sin in general” as a result of man’s fall, he said. “But all suffering does not come from sin in particular.”
Jesus swept away all of the false assumptions when he said in verse 3, “This happened to him so that the works of God might be displayed in him,” Graham said.
Jesus’ answer tells us “to remember that ultimately we don’t need to know all the causes. All we need to know there is a purpose,” he said.
Among those in attendance at Monday’s chapel service were Graham’s wife and daughter. Lauren Graham, who was in a coma for almost three weeks and hospitalized for more than two months after the accident, has made amazing progress in her recovery, her father said. However, she still has farther to go, he said.
She sometimes wonders if she will ever be normal again and if God still will be able to use her, he said. While she was recovering, word of her story was getting out, he said, and God was using her to bring unbelievers to faith.
“God allowed my daughter to suffer so that His works might be put on display through her,” he said.