I had lengthy conversations this week with two women and left each so encouraged by the depth of their faith in an unseen, beautiful God. A dear friend of ours, "Adria", has been walking in relationship with God for several years. She gave birth to twins four months ago after much anticipation and joyful waiting. She is a planner, and had it all arranged to have a C-Section on a certain date to avoid the risks of a natural twin birth where there is no neonatal care or OB specialists. If it could go wrong, it did. She went into labor, her doctor was gone, the attending doctor wanted to do a vaginal delivery against the adamant wishes of both Adria and her husband. The doctor made the paternal decision to disregard the wishes of the patient. One twin was born apneic and needed lengthy resuscitation and neonatal care which wasn’t available. Though he seemed to come around after a few days, he developed a significant fever, persistent vomiting, and became inconsolable. They made repeated trips to the doctor where they were told not to worry, and the baby was treated conservatively. After consulting with me they traveled to the regional hospital in Altamira (14 hr trip) where after several very long and difficult days, he died.
Adria shared with me her anger at both man (the doctors) and God, her confusion, and her struggle to see God’s hand in this. She shared her journey over the past months and how she often went to God and poured out her heart to Him. She told of multiple experiences of feeling comforted and how she learned to trust God’s purposes and heart instead of her understanding. She said that she is at a place of depth and intimacy in her relationship with God that she had never experienced previously. Because both she and her husband wrestled through this difficulty together, they are at a place of intimacy in their relationship that they have never known. Listening to her was so encouraging because of how she responded to her pain by running to her Father. She admitted that she did this so imperfectly but the reward of running to Him over and over is now obvious by the fruit within her. What a testimony of the faithfulness of God and the rewards of pursuing Him rather than understanding.
I also met "Maria", whose 14 year old daughter became pregnant 9 years ago. In the last trimester, she developed seizures and went into a coma for eight days. The baby died and when she came out of the coma, she was extremely debilitated. This obviously beautiful girl was nonverbal, completely lacked the ability to understand, lost virtually all coordination, and became symptomatically like an adult with extreme cerebral palsy. This woman asked me over to her house to inquire as to whether there was any hope for improvement. She has cared for her adult, completely dependent, often irritable and sometimes violent daughter for nine years. She was also a believer prior to this event and shared her struggle to make sense of it all. Her trust in God’s love and care were clear in her conversation and she shared how her dependence on Him had grown through the many moments of fatigue and frustration and how He has been so faithful to care for her through it all, filling her so that she could give and give to her daughter while receiving no earthly reward. She said she has seen God provide countless times throughout the ordeal, though He has not brought healing. As I meditate on these conversations, I learn several things from these women who live in shacks on the equator, with no steady income but with riches beyond what most realize.
It takes willing eyes to see God’s provision in painful circumstances. After talking to them, I so desire their eyes.
God takes special pleasure in taking things ugly and broken and creating from them something beautiful. How I want to remember their hearts and their example when I am experiencing pain. After knowing them, I will.
Through them, I see that a thankful heart is always possible and that a broken heart does not require extravagance to be grateful, like a hungry person does not require an extravagant meal to be satisfied. They both struggled, cried, and doubted, but continued to go to their Father through it all. A thankful heart remains in both of them, with a depth that is so powerful and God-honoring. How I desire more of such a heart.
To selflessly care for one suffering is equally as beautiful as it is to suffer well.
A thankful heart is deeply healing.
Comfort and leisure are more dangerous to your health than difficulty and affliction.
Love and affliction both change one’s soil, so that planted seeds can grow.
Those who are hungry do not desire extravagant meals and do not criticize the quality of their food.
Every person, thing and circumstance has within it and about it both good and bad, both beautiful and ugly, both strength and weakness. We choose, however, on which we allow our eyes, ears and hearts to focus.
God takes special pleasure in bringing life to that which is dead, light to darkness, beauty to that which is broken, freedom to one held captive, and joy to those oppressed.
Nothing’s shape or character can be transformed without the current shape or character first being broken.