What do you do when life is tough? When you’re faced with a challenge? When things spiral out of your control, leaving you feeling helpless and un-tethered?
We live in a time where there are answers everywhere we turn. Usually the answers are no further than the phone we carry. The world is, quite literally, at our fingertips. Yet sometimes, we can’t find our own answers. So where do you turn when life is tough, and you can’t fix it?
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As I came into January, I experienced this “un-tethering” first hand. I learned something – well, a few things – about myself… things that weren’t so flattering. I learned that when life is tough, I try to find my own answers. My own comfort. I look to other people, google, and the frantic thoughts of my own mind to bring me answers and peace.
In January, my son became sick. When we were concerned that he wasn’t getting any better, we took him to the doctor. The next day, we took him to the emergency. And the night after that… we took him to a different emergency. 3 days, 3 different doctors.
Before we brought him to the hospital on that third night, we had sat outside his bedroom door, watching him sleep. We had a deep sense that despite his sleep, something was really wrong. We thought the hospital staff might think we were crazy to wake a sleeping child to bring him in (especially after being cleared by 2 different doctors, 2 days in a row), but God would not let us rest.
All of this was happening in the midst of a massive, days-long blizzard, and we don’t live near a hospital. Each time my husband left in the truck with our sick little boy, I wasn’t sure if they’d even make it down the white-out highways. I watched them plow through the drifts on our long, country driveway, and I would PRAY.
NEVER had I felt more helpless.
When Life is Tough
Around midnight, my husband called to let me know they were staying the night. Before this call, I came painfully to terms with the fact that google couldn’t help me. Social media couldn’t help me. The roads were awful, so I couldn’t get to anyone, and no one could get to me. I had two other kids, sleeping peacefully through the storm that I needed to stay with. And EVERY part of me just wanted to be at the hospital with my son.
I like answers. If I’m ever unsure of something, I can get the answer really quick. People who know me well, know that they can call me with any question. If I don’t know the answer… I know where to find it.
But not that night. That night, all the answers were hiding from me.
Before my husband called, I had texted him repeatedly, begging to know anything. What did the doctor say? How did he look when he said it? Can they help him? What is wrong? And most of all… Is he going to be OK?
Is he going to be OK? Over and over those words came out of my heart and out of my mouth. And in the midst of that… it became so clear. For anything in life – be it a small issue or a big issue – I would turn so many places. But I wouldn’t turn to God unless I was desperate.
Turn First To God
What an odd thing, to turn everywhere but to God. I LOVE God. My mornings start with him, my days end with him, and everything in between happens based on Him. So how could it be that I would turn in every other direction before turning to Him?
That night, I had no choice but to come to terms with the fact that in this world we live in, in this current age… we’re under the illusion that we can control a lot. But ultimately, we can’t calm the storms. I wanted the snow to stop, the wind to cease, and the temperature to rise. But I also wanted the storm of sickness to subside. And it refused.
Who can stop a storm? Not me. I am not God. Perhaps I had let myself believe that with enough knowledge, and with enough preparation, I didn’t need to turn to Him first. I thought I could figure it out on my own.
It took something like this to wake me up. And awake I was as I cried and waited for morning.
The Storm Goes On
After that sleepless night, filled with prayer, my husband phoned. He was again on the icy road. This time following an ambulance carrying our son. They had to transfer him to a larger hospital.
Again, I begged my husband for information, and repeated the question, “Is he going to be alright?”
A couple hours later, my in-laws came over to watch the other kids, and I climbed into the backseat of my pastor’s car. The three of us (my pastor, his wife, and myself) started down the road to the hospital.
We talked and distracted ourselves as he navigated the ice. We looked out the windows and saw the cars and trucks littering the ditches after their mid-blizzard wrecks.
God had kept my husband and my son safe on those roads, and I was so thankful.
We got to the hospital, and I hurried up to his room. There he was in bed. Pale, thin (it seemed he lost weight over-night), and exhausted. He had pneumonia, and it was a bad case of it.
Embrace the Storm
Over the course of his 4 night stay, he had many different doctors and nurses. Each one amazing. I would study their faces as they carefully assessed him. I watched his monitors. Watched as his oxygen dipped, and then joyfully rose. Tried to ignore it when his heart began to race, or his breathing would quicken or slow.
I knew they had him in good care. But still, I couldn’t help but worry.
As good as the care was from the doctors and nurses, the care he received from God was even better.
He is the one that convinced us to wake him from his sleep, and risk driving through a blizzard to the hospital. He was the one that compelled me to reach out to anyone and everyone who would pray. It was Him that caused my family, friends, and church to rally around us. I knew, without a doubt, that he was being covered in prayer.
He is the one that made it possible for my son to heal.
He is the one that unceasingly, and patiently, keeps trying to remind me that I am not God. And that is such a good thing.
When Life Gets Tough- God Refines Us
Many of the “rough spots” I have hit in life have had to do with the health of my son. From the moment he was born, he has had an uphill battle with his health.
But the refinement… irreplaceable. The strength this has put into my son… beautiful. God uses the tough to show us that he reigns. He is the only one that can calm any storm. He is the only one with the answers that matter.
So in each moment, I urge you (and me)… turn FIRST to God.
Throughout those days, God placed a song in my heart. I listened to it on repeat. It is called “I Lift My Hands” by Chris Tomlin. It starts with these words… “Be still, there is a healer. His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing, his arms a fortress for the weak. Let faith arise.”
Psalm 28 says “Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”
He hears. He heals. Don’t do what I did. Embrace him and trust that he loves you as he says he does. Turn worry into worship, and turn FIRST to God.