This week I am preparing to speak on prayer. As I go through my notes, explore my own journey, and grieve with other Christians over the events at First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, TX I like many struggle with the phrase “thoughts and prayers.” What does that mean? Does it matter? Is it enough in the midst of massive pain?
I wrote the following piece for Middle Places. This online magazine no longer exists and I wanted to share my own story, when I thought prayer did nothing but it did. When I was consumed with my own grief and too weak to hold on, the faith and love of others carried me.
Recounting…Even In Our Darkest Times, God Is Good.
(first published at Middle Places, November 2015)
Sometimes, in the midst of our journey life seems burdensome.
It is only in reflection that we begin to see God’s goodness through the most troublesome times. Even in the darkest hours, He shines blessing and joy.
Sometimes, it takes years before we look back and see it.
At 6 months old my daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, retinoblastoma. I have very few pictures of our life for the 6 months following her diagnoses. Those I do have are of her in a hospital.
A few days after the surgery that saved my daughter’s life I was waiting, alone, for her MRI to end. I was shaking, cold and frightened. A woman approached me, placed her hand on my shoulder and asked if she could pray for me. I nodded yes, choking back the tears but inside I was screaming. I had no desire to talk to God. All I could see was the darkness, the fact He had allowed my baby to walk this path and had withheld healing from my child.
For the next year, I held on to my anger pushing those He sent to me away. The kindness of strangers, who had or were walking the same journey, in a hospital waiting room offering me prayer. I am not proud of my anger, but I cannot pretend it wasn’t there.
God in His goodness pursued me. I wanted out. He wouldn’t let me go.
Today, I am thankful for His goodness. I am thankful for the blessing of the good shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep because I was that lost sheep.
Our lives are richer because of my daughter’s cancer. Would I change the fact she had cancer and take the easy route? Every time! But I wouldn’t be who I am today and neither would my children.
Our favorite family stories are of the time she lost her eye on the airplane and the flight was stalled as the stewardess and her dad frantically searched for it. Or how she would wake up early and, to get my attention, would throw her prosthetic eye out of her crib because every time I heard the clink across the hardwood floors I would wake up and come running.
More importantly, this journey has shaped our family values. My children do not shy away from those who are disabled. They run to them. They want to know their stories, to hear if they are like our Katie’s. Our children want to make the world a better place.
God’s blessings do not always come in the wrappings that we would prefer. In the moment we cannot always see the light shining through the darkness but that does not mean it is not there. There were so many faithful people who held tight to their faith in the midst of much worse diagnosis, parents who have buried their children but never let go of God, parents who are still walking through the battle, blindness, chemo, radiation and the side effects that come with it who have put my faith to shame. They stood as a testimony of God. It was the people He placed in my life who were the blessings. It was His goodness that brought me back. My faith is stronger today because I have walked through doubt and darkness. My understanding of God is fuller because I learned through the journey that He loves and cares for us even at our worst.
Is there a time in your life when your faith faltered? Can you see God’s goodness even in your darkest hours? If you are in that hard place now, can you find the joy of the Lord in the midst of your tragedy?
Verses to meditate on: Romans 8:38-39 and Luke 15:3-7
Featured Photo by David Monje on Unsplash