Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
Home to the Longing God
Second, God restores, returning to us a portion of the dignity our afflictions have stolen from us. The sights and smells of cancer, he said, were foul. Sometimes it felt "as though the clothes I was wearing were soaked in sewage. Long before it kills, cancer steals the dignity and the beauty from life. It is as though tumors inside me were attacking whatever small pieces of good and decency that were in me." Yet the thief of cancer, the destroyer of suffering, does not have the last word. God entered into the pain and ugliness of our condition, and this changes everything. "It's part of this world's deep magic that when the One Man, who is so supremely beautiful that his existence defines beauty—when that one man took on himself all the worst ugliness this world has to offer, he changed forever what it means to live in the midst of that ugliness, to live in the midst of pain and loss and hardship. My disease may be ugly . . . But I am not, and thanks be to God for that. I no longer need to wear those foul clothes that cancer spun for me. God the Son gave me cleaner clothes to wear, clothes I did not buy and do not deserve. He elevates all he touches, and he has touched ultimate suffering and he has also touched me." This too is an incomparably great gift.
Third, God remembers, holding us in his heart even in the worst of our sufferings. "Memory for God is not a matter of recall; it's about a love so passionate and powerful that it overwhelms all it touches." God "remembers each one of us in our worst moments the way the Prodigal's Father remembered his lost son, the way a lover remembers a long-lost beloved." And Bill cited what had become a favorite passage from the Bible:
You will call, and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sins (Job 14:15-16).
His voice began to break as he read those words. Think, he said, about the second sentence. "God not only forgives my many and awful sins. He longs for me, and he longs for you too. And he will not rest until he has us secure in his hold."
He concluded: "Standing with us in the midst of those curses is the God who longs to redeem and restore and remember and wrap you in his arms. And if there is one thing I have learned in the midst of cancer and chronic pain, it is this: God is larger and stronger and more powerful than the worst disease."
May his soul rest in the strong arms of the God who has longed for him from the beginning.
See the death notice posted by his family for details of the memorial for William Stuntz. See his blog on matters of law and evangelical faith, Less Than the Least, which he wrote with University of Pennsylvania law professor and Veritas Riff fellow David Skeel. And see the interview below with Jeff Barneson.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.