We had just arrived at All Children’s Hospital. I was reeling from the news we had just received.
Our pediatrician had diagnosed our seven-month-old son Micah with cystic fibrosis and sent him for specialized inpatient care. My heart was aching.
Nighttime always makes everything seem a bit more depressing. The darkness in the hospital room felt like a heavy cloak over my heart and soul.
All Children’s was more than an hour away from our home. My extended family lived miles away. No one was there at that crucial time to pray with us, encourage us or to just sit and cry with us. My husband and I were so numb and devastated we struggled to even do that for each other.
I felt so incredibly alone.
We hadn’t been in the room long when a nurse named Mary walked in. She smiled and introduced herself and then gently grabbed my hand and invited me to sit down.
With a loving intensity, she looked me in the eyes and said, “I know how terrible this all seems right now. But Micah is the apple of God’s eye.” Then she prayed with me. It was like God sent an angel to speak light into my gloomy mama heart at just that moment.
Since that dark night so many years ago, I’ve worked hard to take care of this sweet boy that God has entrusted to me. I’ve prayed. So have many others. Miraculously, although we’ve had many struggles and ups and downs, Micah has not been in the hospital for 15 years.
Until this past fall.
We came to All Children’s expecting a routine appointment with the doctor. But after testing his lung function, instead of being sent home, Micah was sent to the 8th floor to be admitted for treatment. “He could be in here for as long as 14-18 days,” the nurse warned us.
The unexpectedness of this visit was a reminder of the shock of his diagnosis all those years ago. Memories of that time filled my heart with sadness.
A couple of days into this recent stay, a new nurse came in the room. “My name is Mary and I’ll be taking care of you, Micah. How are you doing, sweetheart?” She had such a kind, friendly spirit.
She also looked vaguely familiar. Not surprising since Micah and I have been to All Children’s Hospital countless times for tests and doctor appointments. I assumed we had just crossed paths at some point.
Later, as we chatted, I learned that Mary has been working at the hospital for 34 years.
“Have you always worked in this unit?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she replied. “I’ve always worked on this floor.”
A lightbulb went on.
I told her about the “Mary” I had encountered all those years ago. Her eyes got wide. “Fifteen years ago, I was working the night shift. I remember because my kids were teens back then and I wanted to be available to go to their sporting events and other activities.”
Although we can’t say with 100% certainty, we are both convinced that SHE may very well have been the Mary who prayed with me all those years ago.
Isn’t it just like God to reveal the light of His care and sweetness right in the middle of our darkest hours? And do it in such a remarkable way that we know that only He could have been the Source?
I have this love-hate relationship with pain. I long and pray for its removal. And yet over this past 20 years of my chronic illness journey — mine and my son’s — I have found that pain has brought some of the sweetest revelations of God’s light, love and care for me.
Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. James 1:17
Below are a few of the “generous acts” and “perfect gifts” that Father of Light may illuminate during the midst of pain’s darkness:
The Light may reveal our destiny.
Over and over again, I’ve been frustrated to the point of tears by the way my physical limitations seem to handicap my ability to accomplish the dreams and passions that God put in my heart.
It has seemed cruel. Why give me a ministry and a great desire to do it and then allow a condition that repeatedly hinders my abilities?
I wrestled with God over this for years. Then, through a season of incredible pain over this last year, I had a moment of amazing clarity. When I was ready to hear it, I believe the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “This IS your ministry.”
I realized for the very first time that my ministry was actually enhanced—not handicapped—by my physical struggles.
My pain gave me compassion and empathy. It thwarted my tendency for self-sufficiency. It perfectly equipped me for encouraging others with invisible wounds. God illuminated the purpose in my pain.
The Light reveals the lies we believe.
We can convince ourselves that our faith is solid when everything is going well. But what happens when our circumstances turn dark … and we don’t know when the light will turn on again?
Suffering lays bare the truth we really believe. Does God really loves us? Are we truly convinced that He will work everything together for our good? Is He still a good God?
These are all questions that God wants to settle with each of us. Because truth is what will set us free – from anxiety, from circumstantial security, from resentment and bitterness.
Where we will turn when inexplicable, deep suffering envelops us?
Here is what God’s care and faithfulness in my suffering has taught me:
I can trust the One who died for me.
I may not understand His ways. I certainly may not like them at times. But I can know with rock-solid assurance that the One who died a horrible, humiliating death for me is always working for my good.
The Light reveals our blessings.
God has used pain and illness to make me incredibly grateful for things other people may take for granted.
I’m beyond thankful for a pain-free day.
I relish when I’m able to fully enjoy an outing with my family.
More and more, I’m learning to be grateful for the deeper, sweeter relationship I have with God because of this long journey of suffering. He’s showing me how to enjoy the moment and let Him worry about the future.
Are you stuck in the pit of your painful circumstances today, friend?
Look for the Light.