Hoping in the God of Miracles— Even in the Hard Places
What do you do, what do you say, how do you act, how do you pray— when you feel like you are standing on the outside looking in at one of the most devastating journeys you can ever imagine a family going through? How do you encourage or bring hope or help to someone you love deeply who is in the midst of one of the most painful seasons of challenge you’ve ever witnessed?
It was a cold November morning, my breath visible in the air, when I heard the news that my friend’s son was finally going to come home after spending the past half-year in the hospital. I was on my usual morning walk, trying really hard to just “be present” in the moment and enjoy the quiet autumn sights and smells with my toddler, when I heard the phone in my sweatshirt pocket ringing. Seeing that it was my dear friend whose 11-year-old son had been recovering from a mysterious brain hemorrhage, I quickly swiped the screen to answer the call.
After months of unsuccessfully trying to figure out what was the cause of his mysterious condition, the doctors had just told my friend and her husband the heart-stopping news that their young warrior-boy was, in fact, riddled with cancerous tumors throughout his back and brain. And the hospital was now sending her son home— for the first time in 6 1/2 months!— tomorrow. The word “hospice” was mentioned.
Both my friend’s and my own mixed emotions to this news were torturous. On the one hand, we were relieved that this precious family didn’t have to drive 40+ minutes each way to visit their son in a sterile, security-guarded, stale hospital environment every day any longer. And of course we were grateful that her son was stable enough to now— finally!— not have to be hooked up to countless machines every moment. We were glad that she and her husband would now be able to cuddle up with their son on a normal, queen-sized mattress in the comfort of their own home each night, rather than try to squeeze onto the tiny, rail-guarded hospital bed that they’d been attempting to snuggle on for the past few months. And we were also looking forward to the fact that their daughter would now be able to simply come home from junior high school and give her ailing brother a simple kiss on the forehead and tell him she loved him.
Those are all good, precious gifts that I never even knew were so priceless before I watched this dear family walk this road of suffering.
So I rejoiced with them that their son was coming home.
Yet I also grieved with them because, although he was improving in so many ways and proving the doctors’ predictions and expectations wrong every chance he could for the past half-year (you go, boy!)— the fact of the matter is that this young fighter’s body was quite literally being eaten alive by a rare and vigorous type of cancer attacking his central nervous system. The hospital was sending him home now because they felt they didn’t have anything more to offer him.
And now, four months later, we just heard the news that, despite the fact that he is improving functionally in many ways, the cancer is still growing, taking up even more precious real estate in his brain and body.
So I ask you: What is a friend to do in times like this? All along, as I’ve watched and walked alongside my friend during this journey, I have felt so helpless. So small. So incapable of doing anything at all to help ease her pain and bring her some measure of hope and encouragement. With all my heart, I want to take her ache away, to bring her joy, to somehow be of help or comfort or cheer in this season of harsh survivalism.
Yet all I know to do is to stand by her side, pray my little guts out, and continue hoping and believing in the God of miracles I know and love with all my being.
I have no idea what I can possibly do except keep praying, keep praying, keep praying… and keep offering to do whatever I possibly can to help out tangibly. Want to go for a walk and talk about things? Want me to pick up some stuff from Costco for you? Want me to set up a Meal Train? Need me to clean your house? Can I bring you dinner? Would you like me to sit with you at the hospital? How about today? Is there anything I can do today?, I’ve asked. She rarely takes me up on any of my offers, but I have to at least keep trying.
It’s not my son. It’s not my family life that has been turned upside down. It’s not my house that has recently become a makeshift hospital room. And yet… my heart is with her. I ache with her. I mourn with her. And I also rejoice and laugh and hope with her when I can do that too.
Because although I might be a finite human being with no “real” ability to help and heal and do “important things” to help the hurting folks around me, I can always do what I can do. Whatever that is.
- Sometimes all I have to offer is prayer.
- Often I’m able to reach out via text or phone or Facebook to let her and her family know I’m thinking of them.
- I try to have my antenna up for ways I can serve them in practical ways. I do my best to think creatively and offer my help in whatever specific way I can realistically fit in to my family’s life.
- And lastly, though it may seem counterintuitive, I do my best to be present in my own life, with my own family. A few years ago, when a different friend of ours had a toddler son who was battling cancer, the dad of that child told us “The best thing you can do for us right now is to just enjoy your own family. Appreciate the time you’re with them. Notice everything beautiful about them. And just live your life with joy.”
So that’s what I’m going for.
I can do what I can do, but here’s the real Truth that I need to keep in mind: God Himself is the only One who can truly heal us and redeem our broken situations and relationships and bodies. He is the only One who will truly be able to strengthen my friend or her son or her husband or daughter.
I’ve seen Him do it before and I know I’ll see Him do it again. And somehow… somehow… He will guide and help and hold us all securely… even here. Even in this.
Even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
So, Lord, come. Come into my life and the lives of all the hurting souls across the globe— and especially my friend with the sick son— and do what only You can do. Heal, Lord. Bring hope and peace and courage and strength and wisdom and all that she and her family need.
Even here. Even in this. May Your will be done, Lord.
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What about you?
What challenges are you going through right now? What life experiences, stories, or Bible passages bring comfort or hope to you?
Please feel free to share your comments or your own journey in the comment section below.