One of our children has struggled with a chronic illness since they were very young. I know many families face the pain of watching a child suffer, many kids are sick. I wish it wasn’t so. Each story is different with its own unique pain, rhythm and struggle.
Forgive me for not being specific, in order to honour my child because it is their journey, I am choosing to keep the details veiled. I have not yet experienced anything worse than watching my child suffer. Nothing is worse than feeling helpless, knowing you are capable of offering nothing more than superficial comfort, a hug, an encouraging word and the promise that you will be with them through it. The struggle of pleading, prostrate before God for healing and release for this precious one. Begging that it would be me and not them. That place of desperation and agony, when words fail and only groans and aching of the heart are left. It has been a long, hard road.
Every so often life flows, and there is little evidence that something wrong. The illness is always there, it never fully goes away. But sometimes we almost feel free of it. It is hard to express what it is like when the illness flares. It throws our child down and threatens to knock us down with them. Words are inadequate to describe it. I cannot even try.
I have learned to be careful who I share with or tell. I am thankful for dear friends and family who have been through it with us from the beginning. They have journeyed with us and witnessed our pain. They are a safe place to share our shattered hearts, they are God’s hands and feet to help bring healing to our souls.
I have learned to be careful who I invite into this journey. Who I share with or tell. At this stage because it is not really my story to tell. My child needs to decide who knows. Sharing with others has not always gone well. People don’t mean to say thoughtless things. People assume that in times when everything looks good that the battle is over and doesn’t continue to pursue us or hang over our heads. People misunderstand, try to ease the pain by minimizing what our dear one suffers. If they are also in pain, they sometimes scoff at ours as though it is less than theirs. I know there are situations worse than ours, I know in ways we are blessed even in this. People do not mean to say hurtful things, or behave in hurtful ways. What our child goes through is not easy comprehend, just as the pain of others is not possible for me to know fully.
We all have wounds from this journey. Sore spots that cannot handle the unintentional pain of careless words.
I have wondered why God has chosen to allow our dear one to suffer. Why He has not chosen to bring healing. I have struggled to understand why God has ordained that my precious babe should suffer and walk the hard road.
My instinct, like many parents, it to protect my young at all cost. To keep our child from pain and our other children from having to bear witness to it. In my head, I know that challenges create character, depth and maturity. I know that suffering is as much a part of this life as joy. I know that the heights of happiness are only truly revealed when compared with the depths of sorrow. In the core of my soul, I know God brings beauty out of pain and that suffering is never wasted when we allow Him to be with us in it. I know all this. But all of this is not known to my heart when it involves watching my child in pain. In my heart, it hurts to watch my young one suffer and I want to do anything to make it stop. If given the chance, I would find a way to keep my child from having to walk this hard road.
The season of Christmas always causes me to reflect. It helps. I cannot celebrate the birth of Christ without looking at the long hard road ahead of that Christ Child, the road that leads to Easter.
You see, God isn’t asking my child to do something he hasn’t already done.
Jesus suffered, he knows my child’s suffering. There is comfort for me in that.
In coming to earth and becoming fully human, he knows the challenges of this life completely. In conquering death He gave those who believe in Him the promise of Eternity. Without Christmas, there wouldn’t be Easter. Without Easter, there wouldn’t be Eternity.
My child’s suffering will be finished, perfect wholeness will be theirs. I am so thankful for Christmas.
God isn’t asking me to do something He hasn’t already done. There is comfort in that for me. He knows the road.
He knows the impact on our other children and the wounds it leaves in their hearts. He understands. He knows what to do if they let him into it with them.
God knows the pain our hearts feel as parents, we watch, unable to change the course of our journey. He has experienced it, worse in fact, He knows, it isn’t ignored or forgotten.
He made a choice I am unable to comprehend, a choice I know I am not capable of making. He sent His son to suffer in our place. I cannot begin to understand the pain of knowing I could change the direction of the hard road but knowing if I did, more would suffer.
He watched His only Son walk that hard road and didn’t intervene. He didn’t save His own child from trouble. He knew in the end, that what would come from it was worth it. God knew the only way to forgiveness, freedom and fullness was for His only Son to take the hard road of suffering.
Christmas helps because it reminds me that God knows, intimately, what my child is enduring. He knows how it breaks us. He is in it with us. He has already brought beauty from the suffering and will continue to. Suffering and pain isn’t wasted in His hands. I can trust Him with my precious one ultimately because my child is His and His love for this little lamb is greater than my own.
He has set a hard road in front of my child and our family. But His loving kindness endures forever, His faithfulness is enough and His presence is promised if we want it.
He knows what lies ahead and He will get us through. I know, because He has gone before and because of that, we can walk this hard road.