STARKVILLE, Miss.--When Maroon Edition author Sarah Thebarge spoke at Mississippi State University on Wednesday, she explained how she found her faith again after she lost everything that mattered to her.
As a child, the author of the university's selection for its common reading program believed that God rewarded people who behaved well and punished people who were mean, she told the group of students and community members who filled the Forum Room in Moseley Hall.
After her initial diagnosis of breast cancer forced her out of graduate school, Thebarge had a full mastectomy, and the doctors assured her the cancer was gone.
"I thought maybe, I'm supposed to write about having cancer because God walked me all the way through it, and I didn't die," she said. "A year later, I was supposed to have reconstruction, and the surgeon called me two days later and said, 'Did anyone tell you we found a suspicious mass?'"
The cancer had returned, and Thebarge had more treatments and a bout with pneumonia.
"I lost everything I had," Thebarge said. "I was asking, 'God where are you? If you see it and you know, why don't you intervene and stop it?'
"All I heard was total, absolute silence."
She left Connecticut and moved to Oregon, she said. She started going to church, where she wept at each service and asked God to speak to her. Still, she heard nothing.
Six months passed.
On one Sunday, as she knelt weeping in the church, she remembered a doctor she once worked with who had to stand by while her daughter received painful treatments for diabetes. The doctor watched and wept silently as the daughter cried. When the treatment was complete, the doctor would scoop up her child and hold, hug and comfort her.
"I remembered that scene, and I saw, that's how this reconciles," she explained. "My question was, 'Where were you, God?' But now I realize, God was there all the time. There was something to be done through me that couldn't be accomplished any other way than by me going through what I did.
"I realized, this is the God that I understand, that I love."
Thebarge's visit, part of the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, was sponsored by the local University Baptist Church and MSU's Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement.
Learn more about the Maroon Edition at www.maroonedition.msstate.edu.
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