When the Roof Caves in, the Floor Falls Out, and the Walls Are on Fire

by Joshua Goodling

On a cold, wintry day in January 1986, I was standing behind the counter of a popular fast-food restaurant, flipping hamburgers for the many hungry customers who would soon be cramming their way up to the order line. While we were expecting our mass of hungry customers, my father walked in and came to the counter. He wasn’t there to order food. Fire“Joshua, I hope you like your Wendy’s uniform,” he said, “because right now that is all the clothing you own. Our house just burned to the ground!” Not exactly something you want to hear every day.

I am the second oldest in a large family of seven children. For the past two years, we had been living in a handmade log cabin in central Georgia. Our cabin had been built using a chainsaw, some nails, and a few hundred feet of plastic wrap to keep the wind from blowing between the stacked logs. We had no electricity or indoor plumbing. Our only “running” water was when we “ran” to the corner store to fill our five-gallon water jugs. We had been using a potbellied stove for heating and cooking and an ice chest to store our food. It wasn’t exactly the most luxurious living quarters, but it was all we could afford at the time, and it was our home.

As my family and I returned to the scene of our now former abode, all that was left was a pile of ashes. We had lost everything. Why God had allowed this tragedy to happen we didn’t know.

Three months earlier, while away at college, I received a telephone call that my grandfather had just died. Hit by a drunk driver, he had died due to complications from the accident. That was probably the worst day of my life since my grandfather had been my best friend. As I flew to the funeral in Kentucky, once again came the question: “Why did God allow this to happen?” I didn’t know.

These are just two of the many incidents that have plagued my family over the years. We got to the point that we said, “Well, at least nothing can happen to us that hasn’t happened already.” And to a large extent, that statement was true.

At age four, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Because of the type of cancer, my doctors gave me only one week to live! They told my parents that as far as they were concerned, I had a zero chance of survival. For the next several months, I hung close to the borderline of death and once even stopped breathing. Again, there was that nagging question: “Why did God allow this to happen?”

After a long, difficult struggle, God miraculously healed me of the cancer. As a result of the radiation and cancer, however, my vocal cords were partially paralyzed, my growth was stunted, and several other scars would remain with me for life. Humanly speaking, my life was ruined.

At least now I know the answer to the question, “Why God?” God has used my personal life story to challenge and encourage literally thousands of people across the United States and around the world.

God had a plan, and as usual … His plan worked!

I can honestly say the cancer was worth the opportunity to touch so many lives. As to the other two trials—the burning down of our house and the death of my grandfather—I still don’t know the answer. But one day I will see that the trials worked together for good! I will understand what God’s plan was and how it worked for His glory.

We humans are practically trained to ask, “Why God?” when a problem or trial comes into our lives. We expect everything to happen in our lives perfectly. We want life to be a bed of roses or a silver platter! Without trials and troubles, however, we would never learn to trust God.

Did I have any control over the circumstances that happened in my life? No, they were all carefully orchestrated by God. The Bible tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them who love God” (Rom. 8:28). God has our life planned according to His perfect design. He is the Contractor, and we are simply the empty lot waiting for Him to build His masterpiece.

Of course, the mistake many make is to get mad and upset at God when events as we see them go wrong. If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, however, let me remind you of an important truth: Your life no longer belongs to you. Your life belongs to God! It is His to do with as He pleases.

The major problem with so many Christians today is that they have not allowed God to control their lives. They have not totally surrendered everything to Him. They simply try to “tack” Christianity onto their comfortable lifestyles, but that practice is not true Christianity.

When heartaches come and trials rear their ugly heads, it’s easy to wonder how God could possibly be in the middle of all that you are going through. But He is. God is not the God of evil, but when trouble comes, He masterfully takes it and shapes it into an instrument of eternal purpose.

I think the hymn writer said it best when he penned the following words:

Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee,
Trust Him when thy strength is small,
Trust Him when to simply trust Him
Seems the hardest thing of all.
Trust Him, He is ever faithful,
Trust Him, for His will is best,
Trust Him, for the heart of Jesus
Is the only place of rest.

goodling.jpgAt age four, Joshua Goodling was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors gave him only one week to live, but God healed him. Thirty-seven years later, he is active in ministry and outreach as a career speaker. Featured on TV, he has spoken to churches, schools, and conferences on the power of true faith in God and positive thinking. His first book, Finding True Happiness, was published in 2005. (A free PDF download of the book is available here.) Visit his website.
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