My son’s start to life was not an easy one. Born by emergency caesarean section at 1.00am, Timmy could barely breathe due to fluid filling his lungs. He spent the first sixteen hours of his life puffing and grunting as he laboured to take each breath. By the grace of God, the fluid drained naturally from his lungs and he was finally united with his very relieved parents sixteen hours later.
For the next two years, Timmy was plagued by an endless parade of colds and viruses. Every third week he seemed to contract another one.
The last straw came not long after he turned two. A vicious viral infection spread into his sinuses and then infected both of his ears. I remember despairing as I held his gaunt, feverish and sickly body in my arms as he whimpered in pain. He had not eaten for two days.
That night I turned to the Lord in frustration, “It's one thing for me to suffer - I’m a reasoning adult and I can handle it. But Lord, please, not my children! Please, spare them such sufferings!” As Timmy’s sickness raged on, my inner peace was driven away as I allowed anguish, anxiety and grief to invade my inner person.
As hard as it is to endure severe suffering ourselves, to helplessly sit by and watch a loved one be stricken by such hardships is agonisingly painful, very much like being hit by a double-barrelled shotgun. Not only is our family member suffering, but we suffer alongside them as we let the weight of their troubles pull us down too.
Yet as I waited upon the Lord in prayer that night, He reminded me of what I had learnt through my own sufferings.
I had been assailed by deafness, epilepsy, and an agonising injury, but I came to realise that in spite of all these things, Jesus was still Lord and remained in control of my life, which He held safely within His hands. He was trustworthy and I had nothing to fear.
At that moment I realised that I needed to trust Jesus in and through the sufferings of the members of my family too, just as I had learnt to trust Him in and through my own. So instead of longing desperately for my son’s suffering to end, I surrendered this burden to Jesus and recognised that He was in control of my son’s life too. Of course I continued to pray for his recovery, but now did so with faith, rather than with impatient desperation.
The Bible tells us to ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7) When I realised that I did not need to carry the burden of my son’s troubles, but could give them to Jesus to carry for me, peace returned to my heart.
Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Surrendering this burden to the Lord did not end Timmy’s sickness right there and then, but it made all the difference in how I reacted to it. I reacted now by accepting he was ill, (Philippians 4:12-13 ‘I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,’) I was willing to live with his suffering rather than fighting or fearing it (John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me,”) and I was willing to persevere and let time pass (James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’)
My son did recover soon thereafter, and his health slowly improved over time. Now he is four, and I can barely keep up with him!
Of course, the sufferings that I have examined in this post pale in significance with what many have gone through, with crippling, life-threatening, or terminal illnesses threatening their family members. Yet through this I re-learnt one of God’s eternal truths - Jesus is Lord of all things and completely trustworthy. ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.’ Revelation 19:11.
Seeing me rejoicing in Christ and clinging resolutely to Him despite my flagging health, my wife once said to me, “You have a special gift of faith.” Hearing this greatly encouraged me, yet I do not think my faith is any different from the faith God gives to all believers in Christ. Rather, back when I was in the worst phase of clinical depression, when hope, joy, and life itself seemed to have been torn from me, I considered the alternative to trusting in Christ. If Jesus was not trustworthy, I was faced with an empty life devoid of any meaning that teetered on the edge of a precipice overlooking a yearning black hole of sheer and utter terror.
That was an alternative I refused to embrace. I concluded back then, when my life reached rock bottom, that Jesus was more than trustworthy, He was (and is!) completely trustworthy. There is no yearning black hole of sheer terror. There is Jesus, our rock, our refuge, our unshakeable foundation. And He is the reason for my faith.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
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