At the beginning of this past summer, I was facing hard times, and I wasn’t becoming “stronger”; I started to grapple with the question, “How do I go beyond merely surviving hard times, to coming out stronger.” Some of you know the hard times I am referring to, but others don’t, so I will try and share briefly what I mean.
In 2009 my oldest son, was born with a serious heart-condition, we found out the day after he was born, while still in Canberra we were told that he might not make it, but that they were going to airlift us to Sydney for a possible emergency open-heart surgery. While we were waiting for the helicopter to come and take myself and my new baby son to Sydney (John drove up and joined us), I started to question “Why didn’t God prevent this? Why didn’t he heal him all those times I prayed for my child to be born healthy?” Almost immediately, God told me not to even entertain those questions, and I didn’t. I don’t know if I could have faced Will’s hospitalization if I had held on to those questions, instead I clung to God.
Will’s surgery went amazingly well, and we saw many answers to prayer, but we also saw him go through many painful procedures pre-surgery as well as the pain of recovering from open-heart surgery – heart rending things to witness as a parent. One of my most painful memories of this time, is seeing my little baby cry after his surgery, but hearing no sound – his voice-box pinched by the ventilator. He was unable to do the one thing baby’s do best, the only thing they can do to seek comfort and ask for their needs to be met – cry.
Coming out of the hospital I was emotionally worn out, and anxious about the possible complications from his surgery that we needed to be on the look-out for. I was also worried about the emotional impact of all of this on William, especially the times he was separate from us out of medical necessity and the many times we held him down while he cried for various procedures.
We have been taking him to speech-therapy for awhile and since September he has been in a program for children with developmental delays. It is overwhelming to think of all the help that we have received on his behalf here (in Canada) and in Australia, and we are so grateful for it, yet reading the therapy-reports can be a scary experience, discussing the issues the therapists are seeing can be disheartening, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed in another unhealthy and unhelpful way.
As best as I can remember I didn’t struggle with the “why” questions so much this time, but I was almost crushed by anxiety over Will’s future and sorrow over what my son had to deal with. I wanted to get beyond merely surviving to living well, at first to be honest mostly for the sake of my sons, but eventually because I also “remembered” the motivation of glorifying God.
I knew part of the answer was gratitude, and guarding my mind and not giving into fear and so I asked Tamara and Stephanie, if I could teach the book of Philippians, because I needed it’s message. Philippians, as you all know is written to a suffering church, a church that seems somewhat discouraged with their suffering and is struggling with pride, disunity, false teaching and it seems a lack of peace and trust in God. Against this backdrop Paul’s peace, joy and humility shine through, especially considering he himself is facing hard times, in prison.