Thursday, September 18, 2014

When Healing Doesn't Come

Last weekend I attended my first ever Beth Moore Conference (Living Proof Live) along with two young women from my church.  I could write a whole blog post about the awesome conference (as well as the moment I realized I'm old), but that's not my focus for today.

As we were driving 5+ hours to the conference, we chatted about all sorts of things.  I had the opportunity to share how God worked in our family when I was pregnant with Griffin.  Our doctor suspected that Griffin had a fatal genetic disorder, Trisomy 18, and it was a terribly dark time in my life.  Ultimately, Griffin was a healthy baby.  Whether God healed him of the disorder or simply veiled the truth from us until He could do some work in our hearts, we credit God with giving us the gift of Griffin.

Not every family gets to tell the same story.

A dear friend of mine found out several months ago that his daughter was going to have another baby.  I think she had three children already.  Everyone was overjoyed.  Then a sonogram revealed that the baby's organs were growing outside of his/her body.  Seeing specialists only brought even worse news, and the baby was given practically no chance of survival.  

My friend prayed fervently and believed with all of his heart that God was going to do a miracle and heal this precious baby.  As doctors told the family to be realistic, he clung to his faith that God would heal his grandbaby.

One Friday several weeks ago, he received a call from his daughter that her water broke and she was going into the hospital.  The baby passed away before delivery.

We have had some very tearful discussions through this process and especially after the baby's passing.  How do you respond when you have complete faith that God will bring healing, and healing doesn't come?  How do you wrestle with the "Why?" questions overwhelming your mind and the grief overwhelming your heart?  We trust that God chooses his responses to our prayers, and that His ways are higher than ours.  I assured my friend that I believe faith and hope can coexist with grief and heartache.

Not too long after this situation with my friend's grandbaby, I received a text from a very dear friend asking for prayer.  The brother of one of our friends from high school had collapsed in his home and was rushed to the hospital.  Many of you know that I am referring to Joal Stanfield, a beloved 3rd grade teacher, high school tennis coach, loving husband, and faithful father of three young babies.  As days passed, Joal never left my mind for a moment.  I had been asked to pray for miraculous healing after doctors' reports were quite bleak.  Jared and I felt spiritually bound to pray continually for Joal and his family.  We prayed for days, and there was no healing.  Joal passed away on a Wednesday night as we drove to church to praise the God to whom we had appealed for this healing that didn't come.

Joal's family has a strong foundation of faith.  Even as I know that they trust God and know that He has an ultimate plan, I cannot get over or around or under the giant weight of what that grief must feel like.  As I prayed for these precious people, I couldn't help but think, "This is my greatest fear playing out in someone else's life."  Joal's wife is a widow in her 30s.  She may learn a dependence on God that my soul might never know, but in my humanness, I can't help but wrestle with the ache of healing that didn't come.

Which leads us back to that conference I attended.  Actually, let's first discuss a bit of my life lately.  You may remember two years ago when I decided to try one last time to lose my extra weight.  After I started to see some success in my weight loss, my body went haywire.  I had severe stomach problems, hormone imbalances, weakness, fatigue, hair loss.  I went through bloodwork, sonograms, a brain MRI, and scopes of unspeakable places.  After cancer scares, specialists, and thousands of dollars in bills, I was left diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and lactose intolerance.

Over time I have just learned to live with how I feel.  I plan my daily errands around bathrooms.  I continually add to the list of things I can't eat.  I only do what I feel physically up to doing.  This is simply life as me, and it's fine.

But then when Jared and I went on our getaway, it became painfully obvious how much of my life is just managing how I feel.  As amazing as our trip and time together were, my stomach ruled that trip and dictated what we did and when.  Since then, I can't shake the feeling of being dissatisfied with how I feel on a daily basis.

I'm not the only one who has been struggling with feeling awful on a daily basis.  My oldest son Nolan has had a rough time with stomach pain and nausea for over a year now.  We started out seeing our pediatrician, whom we love, and doing as many tests as we could with her.  Then she referred us to a pediatric gastroenterologist, whom we do not love, and we've been doing more tests.  You may remember when Nolan had to be under anesthesia for one test (read here) and when he puked in the waiting room--twice--during the last test (read here).   

I'm so tired of doctor's appointments.  I'm tired of pulling Nolan out of school, making arrangements for Griffin and Nora, asking favors, driving to unknown places, navigating hospitals, reassuring Nolan, and paying endless bills.  More than anything, I am extremely tired and oh-so-over making Nolan go to school and church and go about life's activities when he doesn't feel well.  As a mom, I want to be the one who cuddles him and takes care of him and lets him rest until he is well.  Instead, I've had to say, "I'm sorry.  I know you don't feel well at all, but we have to go."  I absolutely hate feeling like I'm ignoring how he feels and forcing him to keep going.  I've had to do this myself for two years, but there's no reason a child should have to.

The day after Nolan puked during the test (that we have to repeat next week), I was at a church meeting.  When someone asked for prayer requests, I asked--yet again--for prayer for my Nolan.  I was a little surprised at the force of emotions I felt as I simply said, "I'm done."  I really want to be done with all of it.  I want my child to feel well and enjoy life as an eight-year-old.  I can't find words strong enough to express my desire for my boy to be well.

So NOW let's go back to discussing that Beth Moore conference.  There was a break in the afternoon, and during the break women who wanted prayer were invited to come down around the stage, where trained "encouragers" were waiting to pray.  I got that dreaded heart pounding, shaking, nervous feeling that usually means God wants me to do something I'm not comfortable doing.  I didn't need to use the restroom or get a snack during the break time.  I was just sitting in my seat awkwardly fighting His prompting.  Let me just remind you, sweet reader, that I have a little issue with directions and finding my way in unfamiliar places.  And let me just tell you that we were seated approximately 17,000 rows up from the stage.  And the sections didn't connect with one another.  And only certain stairways led down to the floor.  And women were blocking nearly every passageway.  I must have stared and mentally mapped my route a good 26 times before finally getting up out of my seat to walk down to where the women were praying.

Once I finally walked the labrynth and made it to floor, I had to navigate through more chairs and more women standing to stretch their legs and chat.  All while shaking and fighting back tears.  Then I had to wait in line.  Do you know how awkward it is to stand in line all by yourself, waiting for prayer, while women around you are just talking about everyday things?  When I neared the front of the line, I assessed the lineup of volunteers praying for the conference attendees.  There was a grandmotherly woman who seemed warm and nurturing.  There was an adorable 30-something woman who was crying because the woman she was praying for was crying.  

I'm not gonna lie...I started mentally choosing whom I would prefer to pray for me.  And when I was at the front of the line, and the next volunteer opened up, it wasn't who I was hoping for.  Of course, as soon as I tried to tell her why I wanted prayer, my voice came out all high and squeaky as the tears couldn't be held back any longer.  I told her I wanted healing for myself and especially healing for my son.  I have already prayed for wisdom for doctors and for medicines to work and for test to give answers.  I have already prayed for relief on certain days.  I'm done with all that.  I want all-out full-blown healing.  I wanted someone to pray with attitude and conviction, practically commanding God to release His healing on us.  That's not what happened.

The sweet volunteer held my hand and softly prayed.  "God, what we want more than physical healing is spiritual healing."  No, no, no! I thought.  We definitely want physical healing!  My spirit is good; my body is bad.  My son's spirit is excellent; his body sucks!  I wanted her to change her sweet little tone and pray boldly.  But instead she prayed tenderly and then released my hand.  I had to ask for a tissue to wipe the mess off my face (What can I say?  I'm an ugly cryer.).  Then I started the awkward walk through the sea of women, following my own mental trail of breadcrumbs back to my section.  The only miracle I got that day was that I found my way back to my seat.

I sat quietly in my seat until the break was over and the conference started back up with more praise and worship.  The praise and worship at this conference was A-MAZING.  I loved it so much.  I loved the freedom of worshipping in that giant conference center with so many other women who love my God as much as I do.  But my mood was quite different as the music started up after that prayer break.  My heart didn't really want to praise.  Because the healing didn't come.

Then I "heard" in my mind, "What if healing doesn't come?"  I felt like God was asking me if I'll praise him even if healing doesn't come.  Is He still worthy of praise if he doesn't heal my stomach?  Yes.  Is He still worthy of praise if he doesn't heal my son?  Oooh, I'm having a harder time with that one.  I'm just being honest, ya'll.  Beth Moore says "ya'll" and it's so cute, but I just can't pull it off.  Had to try.

When Jared and I were praying together for Joal Stanfield, something Jared prayed struck me so profoundly.  He prayed something like, "God, you have raised the dead.  So we know that this healing is not too difficult for you."  Wow.  That has stuck with me.  God can raise the dead, so there's really nothing He cannot do.  Yet sometimes He chooses not to use His power in the way we ask Him to.  Then my mind always asks, "Why?"  He doesn't owe me an explanation.  But you better believe my mama's heart demands one when my son lives in pain and discomfort every day of his life, and I have no explanation for him or other people, and it feels like there's no end in sight.  

When I prayed for my friend who lost the grandbaby, God reminded me of Griffin's verse from Psalm 139 that says, "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  God spoke those words to me nearly 7 years ago to tell me that the baby my doctor thought was malformed was actually wonderfully, and purposefully, made.  He made no mistake knitting my friend's grandbaby together.  He handmade each cell with a purpose, even if we don't understand it.

When I begged God to spare Joal's life, He responded over and over again by whispering into my spirit, "This is better for Joal."  My heart cried out, "But what about his wife and children?"  And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)

I'm still waiting.  Waiting for my healing, and even more so for my son's healing.  I'm still waiting for the questions to be silenced in my heart.  Waiting for my faith to fill in the gap left by the ache of healing that hasn't come.  I think faith is deeper and maybe even more genuine when the healing doesn't come and we are forced to rest not on results but on hope.  No matter what happens to me or to the people I love, I want my faith to show that God is worthy of my praise and worthy of my trust.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1


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