While we waited for over an hour on the psychiatric floor for one of Luelle’s appointments this past week, I saw a 7 year old boy with his mom. The boy was spunky and the mom looked tired. I smiled as they walked passed and they smiled back as Lu awkwardly waved at them. Twenty minutes later I saw the same sweet boy screaming and flailing near violently. His mom was calm and escorted him away from the waiting room towards the elevator. The staff at the desk asked if she was okay and she said she was. A bit later security was called because she wasn’t able to control her son. They restrained the boy and I think administered medication to help calm him down. The mom looked even more weary as she shuffled away with the boy. My heart ached for them.
There are a number of challenging things about having a child with a chronic medical condition; the long days spent at the hospital, the heartbreaking appointments full of bad news, the worries about how the normal things in life are going to get done in the midst of all the health stuff, the what ifs about the future, and the fears that even when things are going well something is just around the corner. Lu’s appointments are in Boston so we have to stay all day because it’s too far to drive back and forth in between. We spend a lot of time walking around the hospital waiting or trying to get Lu to nap. As we walk I see so many faces. I see parents afraid, exhausted, angry. I see children fearful, deformed, in pain. I see doctors heavy with patients and procedures on their mind. I see siblings antsy, bored, and feeling neglected. One of the hardest things about having a child with chronic medical needs is walking around a world of deeply suffering people.
As I sat in almost two hours of traffic on the way home, I wanted to be angry and frustrated. Poor Lu only napped for 20 minutes the entire day and was so cranky. Chale was beside himself when I left him with the babysitter, I never had lunch, and I had banana smeared all over my clothes from letting Lu feed herself as I tried unsuccessfully to keep her from melting down through her last appointment. Instead I just cried. I kept seeing that sweet boy’s face, and hundreds of other faces that I had seen at the hospital that day and so many other days.
I thought about some of my darkest days of pain, suffering, and fear. I have experienced moments that felt physically and emotionally unbearable, but I have always clung to hope. I believe God is all powerful, that He is ever present, that He sustains us through all things, and that He is all we need. Those promises haven’t fixed my circumstances or made life easy, but clinging to God who always keeps His promises is what has gotten me through my darkest moments. My heart breaks for those faces knowing many of them don’t have hope. They don’t know those promises that bring peace in the midst of pain.
Then I got angry. I thought about how people, myself included, harshly judge other’s actions without caring to dig deeper. Unfortunately, Christians can be the worst offenders. How dare we judge someone for lieing, divorce, stealing, abortion, sleeping around, suicide, even murder and not first want to know the condition of their heart. If someone has no hope why wouldn’t they do any number of things? My point is not that these actions are good or bad. My point is that our actions are an overflow of what is going on in our hearts. We can be so quick to judge others but do we realize the reason people do these things is usually because they are hopeless, afraid, alone, or hurt? I confess I have so wrongly judged others before and I also have been wrongly judged. How can we look at our lives and surmise that our problem is external when truly the problem lies in our heart. Many times in the Bible Jesus condemned those whose lives were outwardly clean but their hearts were far from Him. He called them white washed tombs. If we saw that mom and boy in the grocery store and the boy started having an episode, how would we respond? Would we assume he is spoiled and that she is doesn’t discipline or would we ask if she is okay or needs help?
Jesus came to bring hope into a dark, suffering, dying world. Jesus can impact our past, present, and future. Jesus can redeem even the most terrible things we have done and the horrible things done to us. Jesus can give us the strength to get through whatever we are facing. Jesus promises to usher us into His full presence after this life. There we will experience freedom, no pain, and perfect joy because we see and know Him completely.
Through my angry tears I asked the Lord what I should say to these hurting people? If one of them stops me as I walk by them in the hospital and desperately says they are hopeless and afraid, how would I answer them? The Lord brought this passage to mind.
“As he (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3 ESV).
I love that Jesus so quickly dismisses the notion that this man’s blindness was because of something he or his parents did wrong. Jesus’ explanation of the man’s blindness is not warm and fuzzy. He doesn’t say that the man’s blindness is going to bring riches or ease. Jesus says the reason for his blindness was so that the works of God might be displayed. If you stop and think about this, it’s incredible. This man was chosen by God to be blind so the glory of God would be seen through him. What an honor. God never wastes our pain. He hand picks us and tenderly, knowingly orchestrates our lives in such a way that His work may be displayed through us. It’s messy, scary, at times might feel unbearable, but ultimately if we believe in Him we can be confident that God will do more than we could ever imagine through our struggles. I don’t say this lightly. It takes a divine perspective to hold onto both struggle and hope.
Jesus was willing to suffer incalculably because He loves us unconditionally. He could not save us from the punishment of death we deserved, without giving His life in exchange for ours. The punishment needed to be fulfilled by someone otherwise there would be no justice. Our options are either to spend eternity in hell as we deserve or accept His death as our own and entrust our lives to Him.
Jesus knows what it’s like to hold both suffering and joy. We can hope in Him because He has gone to the depths of suffering for us. Not only did He die in our place, He wants to give us His goodness. When we entrust our lives to Him, He gives us His joy, peace, wisdom, patience, endurance, and so much more.
As I remember and continue to see faces of hurting people, my prayer is that God would reveal His glory to their aching hearts. I pray that we would not judge eachother’s actions but would look into people’s eyes and be willing to get to know their hearts. I pray for that sweet boy and his mom that the depths of their suffering would overflow with the vastness of God’s glory.
“He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace.” ― Joni Eareckson Tada
“Jesus went without comfort so that you might have it. He postponed joy so that you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so that you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow. He had no real fellowship so that fellowship might be yours, this moment. This alone is enough cause for great gratitude!” ― Joni Eareckson Tada