Last week’s blog was difficult to write and share. I wanted to feel better, both physically and spiritually, but I didn’t. Since I promised to always be real and transparent in my blog, I wanted to make sure that I, as well as my readers, would understand that the spiritual journey through suffering is not easy or pretty or packaged or neat. I want to share the tough and rough side of faith, not the edited spiritual fluff that ends up in so many devotionals and songs. What I love about the Bible, and especially the Psalms, is how real and raw it is. Many of the psalmists cry out in deep despair and anger in their prayers and songs to God. Not all the chapters are sweet or pleasing or reassuring. In fact, they are downright disturbing. I think that so many of us who are Christians want to get to the end where we find the hope in suffering, but that takes time. I have been reading many articles on suffering, listening to songs about suffering, reading books on suffering. And my take on this is that these are written AFTER the time of suffering. They are written as a post reflection when the authors can look back and see what they learned. They aren’t written amidst the pain, when the darkness is so deep that there is no glimmer of a tunnel that leads to light. Reading the Psalms has taught me to write what is real while experiencing the pain. God knows my heart and He loves me still.
When I wrote last week I was still in the midst of suffering, and I wasn’t hearing the answers I wanted or feeling the way I wanted. During this time I had started a new posture in my prayer time. I had begun kneeling at the side of my bed, with my Bible open on the sheets and my head face down. I was desperate for God—and by kneeling and pouring out my heart, I was at the end of myself….and could humble myself before Him and at the same time feel how mighty He is. Each day last week I felt a little stronger. I was doing work from home, cooking meals for my family, going to appointments, and I even went back to my first spin class since surgery. I finally felt like I was going to make it through this.
God had revealed a few things to me during this time and I was ready to be obedient to his leading. He told me clearly His plans for me:
One: Choose only what is important
Two: Love well
Three: Tell your story and proclaim God’s glory
I was ready. I knew my priorities and I would begin setting out to finish my book, continue my blog, and share with those who are suffering.
And then, out of the blue, another “suddenly” phone call happened. I have written a whole blog post on the “suddenly” moments. As in suddenly a phone call, or message, or diagnosis, or event changes the course of your life. As in suddenly nothing that was happening before even matters. Northern California was on fire, friends I know were evacuating, I was on my knees praying, and the call came.
One of my dearest friends was at the hospital. Her son Isaac had been in a horrible accident. The last words were, “It’s really bad.” Crisis alert within the inner circle. Our dear friend Lisa needed us. It was time to move into action. I drove to the hospital in a daze and at the same time others were finding out and my phone was blowing up. Isaac was in the ICU and doctors said he would survive this. But his spine had been severed. The surgeon did not give any sugar coated answers at all. Based on the scans, he would be paralyzed from the waist down. This sixteen year old boy who I watched grow up, was told he would not walk again. I am not going to go into all the details of what Lisa and her precious family are going through right now as they process all this new information, and how it will affect their lives. It is her story to tell. But with her permission, she allowed me to share in my blog.
I write because this shook us all up once again. Another tragedy. Another shock. Another reason to scream out in an angry roar, “WHY?????” But instead of focusing on the why, all I could think about was, “What am I going to do to be there for my friend?”
The next day was the surgery to repair Isaac’s spine to the point in which he could sit up. After he was brought back to the room with the breathing tube still in and the doctor had confirmed his initial diagnosis, it felt so dark and grim. It felt oppressive, like thick air was choking us. I was there with my friend when she couldn’t catch a breath and it was all crashing down on her. I kept rubbing her back and telling her that she didn’t have to be strong, that she didn’t have to be okay. One of the sweet young nurses came up to us and asked if Lisa needed anything and Lisa responded, “I will be okay.” The nurse repeated what I had been saying. “No,” she said, “you are not okay….this is fucking shitty.” (Way to go girl). Yes, this was an absolutely shitty day and a shitty reality.
And yet, during all this, people in our friendship circle and our community were stepping up like none other. Food baskets, blankets, cards, comfortable clothes….all sent over to the hospital. People were messaging, praying, taking care of the house, the dog. Two of my other dear friends put together a site to keep all the well wishers and prayer warriors up to date on Isaac and the family. Everyone was saying, “WHAT can we do?” Because this you see is how light breaks into darkness. This is how the community of Christ is compelled to love and give and serve. This is faith in action.
I have been on my knees by my bedside reading this passage over and over—for me, for Isaac, for Lisa, Brad, Rachel, Christiana and so many others in their family….
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him….His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Psalm 91 1-2; 4
The first days I was at the hospital, Isaac had never been awake. But when I visited yesterday he was tired, but somewhat alert. He spoke with me and it was so incredible to hear his voice! I told him I have been praying this verse for Him and that I hoped he could feel all the prayers. He told me, “I like that verse; could you send it to me?" I told him to go to sleep and that I would just pray over him. He looked like he was asleep so I went to kiss his cheek, but when I walked away, he said, “I prayed over you too.”
Isaac’s favorite verses are in Ephesians 6: 10-20. This passage talks about the armor of God. “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” Isaac is a warrior, a fighter. With God, he will stand firm. He has this Hope.
There are so many stories of redemption, restoration, and faith throughout this horrific situation. I wish I could share all of them. I know that my friend Lisa and her family are loved by God and that He will see them through. I know that Isaac is God’s child and he will get the daily strength he needs. It will be a long and hard road, paved with suffering. But not only is this family loved by God, they are loved by their church family, their community, their friends. No one is going to let them walk this road alone. As overwhelmed as they are right now, they feel the comfort of God and the love of others.
This past week God showed me how His plans for me came to fruition and by doing that He showed me once again how He is an intimate Savior and an almighty God.
He told me to choose what is important. There is nothing more important that stopping everything to be there for a friend you love.
He told me to love well. I was able to be part of a group of friends who know how to love well as we gathered around our friend. We all love in different ways and with different gifts. We love deeply, so deeply it hurts. These are the same friends who stopped everything to be by my side when I was in the hospital (multiple times). These are the same friends who celebrate our joys and our many struggles together.
He told me to tell my story and proclaim His glory. I will continue to share stories of triumph and tragedy, of joy and suffering. Through all of it, even though I may not see it or feel it at the time, God is here. I can already see how God is using this tragic accident for His glory. I don’t know all the mysteries or the outcome, but God is in it. And I know without a shadow of doubt, that Isaac knows God is in it and with him. Isaac has a story to tell and he will tell many more as his journey continues. Isaac wears the armor of God and because of that he has hope and strength. He has much to share and God will be glorified. Yes, even amidst the suffering. Fight on Isaac. God is with you.