Learning a precious child or other family member is afflicted with a health problem can turn everyone’s life upside down. A parent’s natural reaction is to move heaven and earth in an effort to do whatever it takes to solve the problem… to make things better. But that’s not always possible. When the source of the affliction is determined to be genetic, it can – and often does – send families into an emotional tail spin as they work through the stages of grief:
- First, sets in the initial shock: asking “how could this happen to us?” questions;
- Then denial: “oh, there must be a mistake”;
- Often followed by blame and finger pointing: “well, it couldn’t have come from my side of the family”;
- A sense of despondency, guilt and depression may flood in as parents mistakenly wonder: “Why is God punishing my innocent child?”;
- Next, there’s a realization of loss, the what will never-bees: “my child will never play baseball, go to college, marry or have a family of his own… and we’ll never know the joys of becoming grandparents.”;
- And finally, acceptance.
I believe this is a normal and natural process, similar to what people experience whenever they face any unexpected life challenge. It takes time to work through this process. The “never-bees” can be extremely painful and difficult for many parents and families to work through. Why is that? Because as the child reaches each life event age, the “never-bees” can unexpectedly trigger a new flood of grief.
For some, it may take years to work through the grief process. Others may never reach the end of this tunnel to the point where they can accept whatever it may be and, once again, walk into the sunlight.
God never promised us rainbows and roses as we journey along life’s path. The test is how do we react when we come face-to-face with life’s obstacles? Do we allow seeds of bitterness and self-pity to be planted and take root in our hearts? For a season or two, we may, as I know it can be difficult to avoid the pitfalls, after all, we are only human. But it is far better to take our troubles to Jesus, right from the start. There’s an age-old hymn I’d like to share:
I have been through the valley of sorrow and weeping,
The valley of trouble and pain;
But the “God of all comfort,” the “God of all comfort,”
Was with me to hold and sustain.
My beloved Grandma was a strong Christian woman who was no stranger to life’s disappointments, tribulations, pain, loss and suffering, but by her unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, she was able to navigate these heartaches and challenges with the help of her Bible and the power of prayer.
After she passed on to Heaven’s pearly gates, I was honored to be given her well-worn Bible, falling apart at the seams and full of handwritten notes. She wrote the verse of this old-time hymn inside the cover, followed by the words: “yes, Lord I know”.
When my first child was just a toddler, I’ll always remember a day when we visited Grandma, who lovingly held the young girl on her lap as she sweetly sang Jesus Loves Me.
By then, I was well aware of some of my daughter’s challenges and special needs, as was Grandma. I’ll never forget what she told me that day as she gently shared a piece of wisdom gained from a lifetime of experience and unshakable faith: “God gives Special Children to Special Moms. Dear Loretta, know that God never gives us more of a burden than what we can bear.”
The old hymn continues:
Yet how often we shrink from the purging and pruning,
Forgetting the Husbandman knows
That the deeper and closer the cutting and paring,
The richer the cluster that grows.
At the time, I was young, still wrestling the never-bees and not quite ready or able to see past my disappointments in spite of my deep love for my child.
It was, however, not long afterwards when out of the blue on a Tuesday afternoon, there was a knock at our door. To my surprise, there stood the pastor from a small country church we were attending and another man whom he introduced as simply “a Prophet”. Having been raised attending very traditional churches all my life, I’d never met a prophet before – and quite frankly, did not even realize there was such a thing as modern day prophets.
We had a brief conversation as I held our daughter, not quite sure what to make of it all. But before departing, the Prophet looked at me and said something I’ll never forget: “This child is a blessing from God.” And truer words were never spoken. Indeed, she is a precious gift from above.
As we travel the pathway thru life’s shadowed valleys,
Fresh springs of His love ever rise;
And we learn that our troubles, our sorrows and losses,
Are blessings just sent in disguise.