Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Pleased That We Asked

Greg Tomko was one of my best friends when I lived in Athens, Ohio in the late 1980's. His child like, outspoken love for Jesus--mingled with leftover streaks of his hippie styled California independence--both scared and attracted me all at the same time.

Together we produced and hosted, "The Sunday Offering Show," a Christian rock music program that aired for five years on WXTQ. After an early fight, where Greg was so mad at me he bolted out of the studio and walked 10 miles home, we became the best of friends who complimented one another's gifts. He had the vision and I had the technical know-how to implement it.

After I moved to Dallas for seminary, Greg and his family later moved to Nashville. We lost touch with each other for a few years--until Greg called me out of the blue. I told him, "You must now be some fat cat Nashville music executive and you're calling to bring me on as your vice-president."

"No, I wish" he said, "I called to tell you I've been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer."

In less than two years, one the best friends I ever had was gone.

During the funeral service, somebody said:

"We prayed that God would heal Greg and let him live. We're sad that it didn't happen. But God was pleased that we asked."

That last line has baffled me for over the years. Pleased? How could God have been pleased? If He was pleased, then why didn't He let Greg live?

I couldn't understand how God could take pleasure in bringing Him a prayer request that He didn't grant. Years later, I'm beginning to appreciate the reality that God truly is pleased.

What's moved my thinking is the discussion Jesus has with the desperate father in Mark 9:14-29:
Father: "...But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

Jesus: " 'If you can'? Everything is possible for him who believes."

The problem, Jesus says, isn't God's ability. God can accomplish whatever He wants. The question is, "Do you believe I'm able?"

While it troubles me that Jesus put the burden of believing upon the father, my friend Greg gladly welcomed such a responsibility. In fact, there's no Christian I knew who had greater faith in God's ability than Greg. Compared to Greg, I was always the one who said, "I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief." Numerous times Greg said his healing was coming soon.

And it did. God took Greg home in May, 2001.

Throughout the whole cancer ordeal, Greg, his family, and friends trusted and believed in God's love, power, and providence.

And though our prayers weren't answered in the way we wanted, God was pleased that we asked.

UPDATE: Scot McKnight has started a series on unanswered prayer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I, too, was friends with Greg - met him while I was in Athens, OH from '91 - '96 as he ran in community with many of us Navigator/Campus Crusade for Christ/Central Ave UMC folks. I was actually with him at Cornerstone when he first complained of stomach pains following a football game, and he asked me to pray for him. I also dedicated a song to him on my band's, Set on Edge, final c.d. called "Passing into Life". A very touching post, I must say: I'm about to start a whole series on the Suffering and the Sovereignty of God over at my blog
Thanks for posting yours.

Shannon Lewis