Three weeks ago today, my daughter-in-law Bethany went into early labor. As we waited in the hospital lobby, we were concerned. The baby was in distress. He would be born seven weeks early. Bethany had not had an easy pregnancy. I prayed for her and the baby’s well-being and determined to trust in a good God.
When Daniel finally arrived downstairs to give us the news, there were tears streaming down his face. Bethany was fine, but the baby was not. There were severe complications. He had to be resuscitated at birth. His abdomen was filled with fluid. He could not breathe on his own. He was severely anemic. And the hardest to hear: even if he survived, his problems could well be a life-long struggle. His facial features indicated possible Down Syndrome.
During the night, little Joseph was rushed to Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., his condition grave. He was now a 45 minute drive from his mother, who lay helplessly in Annapolis recovering from her c-section. When Daniel and I arrived at Children’s the next morning, we were told Joseph was the sickest baby in the NICU.
They were dark days. Bethany and Daniel clung to anything positive. We scrambled to arrange for meals, childcare, and round the clock support of Bethany and Daniel. And we waited to see what God would do.
After a week or so, Joseph slowly began to improve. He was finally able to breathe without the ventilator. He started digesting his mother’s milk, given to him through a feeding tube. The fluid began to subside, albeit slowly. His blood numbers stabilized. I began to cautiously feel hope for the first time.
Then came the devastating confirmation: the tests revealed Joseph is definitely Down Syndrome. The whole world turned upside down. Really, God? After all the prayer and pleas, this is your answer for us? I struggled with how a good God could give us such pain.
Through the fog of grief, it finally came down to this for me: is God a god to be trusted or isn’t he? Will I only trust him when I understand? Will I only think him good when he does what I want him to do? Many caring friends came alongside me and related stories of the blessing Down’s children are to their families and friends. While I truly appreciated their encouragement, I knew the answer to finding peace was not in hoping for positive circumstances or outcomes. Peace could only come in fixing my gaze on God alone.
He is good. All of little Joseph’s problems were not given to us in spite of God’s goodness. They were given to us because of God’s goodness. God has great plans for this little baby. He is going to reveal himself through his life. And as his family surrounds him with love and support, God will reveal himself through us as well. The world will see God in our love and commitment. They will observe us operating through his strength, our own resources at an end. Hopefully, they will be inspired in seeing a family with an unwavering commitment to trust God, no matter what happens next.
It’s why we are here. God has chosen to reveal himself through his church. When we are obedient to him, loving like he loves, emptying ourselves of our own agenda and surrendering to his, Paul tells us we will “appear like lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.”
Saying yes to God allows him to use us to make himself known. It also opens a conduit for God’s blessing. When our hearts are soft, willing to listen, eager to obey, we are moldable. We have cultivated the soil. We are ready for transformation.
So, as I slowly get back on my feet, it is with a deepening sense of dependency on the God who directs my path. I’m clinging to him like a life preserver. And I’m better for it.
If you would like to follow little Joseph’s progress, click on this link. Family members update regularly.