Last week Doug traveled to Mexico City to preach at a pastors’ conference. As the time got closer for him to leave, my worries ran faster. “What were we thinking?” “Why did we decide for him to do this when so much of Peter’s care involves his dad?” And to Mexico??” I became pretty much a basket case. And I share this, not to be a whiner, but to give me a chance to boast in the Lord. The Lord provided much help the week Doug was gone. Our need gave Him many opportunities to display His strength.
People have said to us over these months: “You are so strong,” and “The Lord knew He could trust you with a trial like this.” I so appreciate the heartfelt goodwill behind these words, yet I want to reveal candidly to everyone, that we are not strong, not for a single moment that He is not carrying us. I am, frankly, a weakling.
We have learned through this experience that heavy trials come to all sorts of people, irrespective of their spiritual strength. God doesn’t just pick the strong ones. In fact, since we have run in medical circles associated with brain trauma patients, we have discovered that not only is brain injury epidemic in our country, but that it often explodes families into fragments, because of the daunting challenges that accompany it. The night nurse we have employed to help with Peter was released from a recent position, in which he was nurse to another young man, whose parents ended their marriage because of the stress related to their son’s injury.
And often, there are times Doug and I feel unequal to the task of walking through this trial. There are times we are weak and exhausted. There are times we feel we can’t go another step.
Clearly, we have seen, that it is the Lord, and not our own strength, that sustains us or any believer through trial. We have never felt our human weakness more keenly. But as well, we have never been more aware of how the Lord keeps His people remaining under and bearing up under trial. He gives any believer grace for whatever He sends, not based on where we are in our Christian walk. We don’t have to be strong beforehand; He gives the strength when the moment of trial is upon us. In fact, it’s through the trial that believers understand the depth of our weakness and dependency on our Lord to carry us. Our continual story is how the Lord uses His Word, His people and their hymns and prayers to comfort and compose our hearts.
So let me share with you how God gives us grace:
when I am sure my fatigue will keep me in bed til noon, grace comes in the form of a delicious meal that arrives on our doorstep or in the form of three women who appear at my front door, ready to clean my house for the umpteenth time this year. When I am sure my health is about to break down, grace comes in the form of green juice (yes, I am a health food freak) that is left on our front porch bench from sisters trying to keep me healthy. Recently, when I was especially discouraged, strength came in the form of a package in the mail, arriving from Pennsylvania–inside were CDs full of hymn arrangements. Sometimes when I have wondered if my faith would even make it through this trial, I have heard a sermon that bolsters my shaky faith to keep going.
Three weeks ago, grace came by the hand of a young nursing student from Union University, (where Peter was scheduled to go), who asked if we would allow her to give us her spring break to help care for Pete. That really gave us a chance to rejuvenate. And I took calls just the past several days from California, Texas, and Tennessee from sisters in Christ who remind my wimpy heart of the truth of God’s love and faithfulness and of their faithful prayers for Peter.
Every time we sing together as a family in the evenings, I am awestruck by the choice of a favorite hymn that the Lord put on Peter’s heart. When he could talk, it was the song he chose almost every time his turn came around for the past couple of years(so of course we sing it on his behalf most nights we sing):
“Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow thee,
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known,
Yet, how rich is my condition:
God and heaven are still my own.
“Go then earthly fame and treasure;
Come disaster, scorn and pain.
In Thy service pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, ‘Abba, Father’;
I have stayed my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.”
These words must have been foreknown by the Lord as the lyrics that would comfort us every time we choose the song for Peter’s turn. See how they fit our current situation with Peter! When I am sad, they cheer me up every time. And we as a family have enjoyed rich times of strengthening around Peter’s bed, fellowshipping in the evenings. God gave us this and other hymns to impart His strength to us in our faltering walk. Truly He carries His dear children along.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, 10