It was one year ago that an unexpected accident amputated portions of both of my son’s hands. One year ago that my emotions barked back at my theology. I thought about family and friends who’d suffered much worse and marveled at the power and goodness of Christ who’d enabled them to move forward in despair.
God didn’t answer our begging prayers that jarring night. The surgeon said that “he’d tried really hard, but… ”. I don’t remember much more after that. Lonely tears fell slow and silent down raw cheeks as my husband and I held each other in the empty, dark hospital room. Those initial days brought cycling pain that no child should ever have to endure, and screams that no parent should ever have to hear. Closed eyelids brought no relief because they turned into screens that replayed the trauma. I pulled my boy’s body tight against mine to stop his heart from breaking into more scared pieces.
Amidst the pain God’s presence manifest in ways that were measurable, undeniable. Growth of faith instead of its collapse. Emotional resilience instead of despair. Countless answered prayers – countless helpers at essential stages to carry us forward when we couldn’t move forward on our own. In fact, weeks after the accident I received a personal phone call from one of the physicians who called on behalf of the medical team. It seemed that they didn’t have a name for what they saw working in us that night and they wanted to call me to discuss it. It was Who – not what – they had seen. Christ’s power and presence had shone through our lives when we were at our weakest. Our miracle list is long.
Lessons In The Dark
What went wrong was a clear thread within the story-line too. The days when the ‘felt’ presence of God was so glaringly absent that our feelings kept insisting that God had abandoned us. Medical error. Disappointment. Scars that remain on worn hands and minds. Yet every time the story-line went sideways, we had the opportunity to practice gratitude and train trust. Struggle and brokenness wreak havoc on our world and there will inevitably be seasons when we cry out to God and it seems like He’s not showing up – at least not in the ways that we want Him to. There are plenty of biblical characters who endured distress and felt like God had left them alone. Naomi felt abandoned by God and re-named herself Bitter (Ruth 1:20). No matter which direction Job searched, all that He noticed was that God’s presence was absent (Job 23). This brings perspective to the confusion – even God-fearing people can expect to feel alone sometimes.
During hard seasons we must determine to allow the life and work of Jesus to impact our feelings of disappointment and overwhelm. We need to lean into godly community (Ecclesiastes 4:10). When our family was utterly depleted, the support and prayers of so many people lifted our exhausted bodies up off the floor and thrust us into the throne room of heaven itself. In these seasons we must be searching for, and teachable to scripture. Calls and texts rich with the Word connected us with Christ Himself who is the Word and spoke powerfully through it (John 1:1). It is during these times that we must practice gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When the gauze was removed from my son’s hands, the nurse was stunned to hear shouts of joy upon seeing his amputations. We celebrated the portions that remained instead of fixating upon all that was lost. Even in despair, when we look with gratitude for where God’s presence is moving, what we’ll discover is that He is moving everywhere (Romans 8:28).
A reminder for all of us – when we long for God to change our circumstances in specific ways that we can see, it is often within the ache of unanswered prayer that He is changing us in ways that we can’t see (2 Corinthians 3:18).
People have commented that my son is extraordinary, and as his mother my heart quickly jumps to agree with thorough example points. But the honest truth is that he is a regular kid who struggles during his daily grind, just like the rest of us. Vices, rebellion, sin – it’s all there running alongside the great parts. Yet his ordinariness and imperfection is what gives us all such hope. If my son is extraordinary then those of us who are ordinary will crush under the knowledge that we will never be enough. But if Christ is extraordinary then there’s certain hope and magnificent joy. If Christ can empower an ordinary kid with extraordinary resilience during hardship, then we’ve been given up-close evidence of Christ’s promise to equip us for all that He calls us to endure (2 Corinthians 9:8). God uses the weak things of this world to accomplish His redemptive purposes so that His extraordinary excellence will be more obviously seen and acknowledged (2 Corinthians 12:9).
At the one year Accident Anniversary mark, our family now celebrates again. A son who once fiercely resisted any discussion about the event, returned to the accident site for the first time and prayed gratitude and ongoing goodness to keep spilling out from what broke. Classic for his private personality, we hadn’t even known that he’d gone to do it. I pressed a small, hand-made stick cross held together by a twisted bulrush stock, into the dirt to mark the spot. It’s a symbolic reminder of how the power that resurrected a crucified Jesus is the same power that can resurrect any kind of brokenness that we experience today. I quickly snapped a picture of the cross and when we looked back at the image we noticed a decisive ray of sunshine landing across it. “That’s actually pretty cool,” he whispered.
Trauma fueling resilience. Physical loss bursting spiritual growth. Despair dissolving into hope. And now, one year later, scared wounds have hesitantly taken their first steps toward new healing. This is hope – that Christ has the power to redeem all broken things on earth. But where brokenness remains, we confidently anticipate our eternal hope that the remaining pieces of brokenness will break into wholeness forever – a hope and joy that moves well beyond whole fingers, to the receipt of fully redeemed hearts.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28