Updated: Feb 19, 2021
The doctor walked into our room and slowly took a seat. "I know this is never the kind of news anyone wants to hear," he began, "but the ct shows a mass on the brain."
A mass. He went on to explain to keep in mind that we didn't yet know what it was, but we also knew that a large mass on the brain was never good. More tests would be run, more waiting, and a long night of prayer and very little sleep lay ahead.
The news was about my husband. The man who hours before had been out coaching our son's baseball practice. The man who is healthy and active and has run marathons and half marathons regularly for years. The man known as dad to my three young kiddos who love and need him. The man I've been married to for 15 years who happens to be my best friend.
As the doctor asked if we had questions, we asked a few, he empathetically answered all he could, and we were again alone in the room. I'm not sure what all I was feeling at the time...I think I felt my "fight" response kick in with the reminder that this was not too big for God. He knew about this long before we ever did, He was going before us even now and would walk each step of the difficult journey with us, whatever was to come. This likely mixed with a heavy dose of shock, not quite processing all that was taking place perhaps.
This was Saturday night. Earlier that evening I'd taken the kids to church. I was volunteering in the kids' ministry and my husband stayed home to get some work done since we had plans to watch the service together the following morning. Soon after arriving, I thought it odd that he was calling me since he knew I was at church. He told me something was wrong and he was going to the hospital. Fast forward a few hours...a friend was staying with the kids and I sat with him receiving unforeseen news in a hospital emergency room.
That night after he was sent off for an MRI and was to be admitted overnight, I returned home to assure the kids everything would be ok. I gave them extra hugs, loved on them, shared some hard news to hear with the oldest who wasn't satisfied with the simple answers. Most of all, we talked about God, that no matter what our circumstances are, that His character does not change. He is good, He is with us, we can trust Him. He is a strong God. Dad will be ok, I told him. And I just laid there with him. He wanted Dad. There was nothing to fix this, other than to let him know I was with him, he was not alone, we'd get through this together.
That night was one that I have heard described as a "dark night of the soul." I am so thankful for a dear friend who talked on the phone with me late into the night, giving me the same assurance I gave my son. I was not alone, she loved me, listened to me, sat with me, prayed for me. The tears that did not come in the hospital room came as I lay face down on my floor, her desperately praying the words I didn't even have left to pray. As we got off the phone I got into bed exhausted, but very little sleep would come. Much prayer took place that night, and I understood the words of scripture in a new way that talk about a "groaning too deep for words." (Romans 8:26)
While this was a long and hard night, not knowing what news the morning would bring, there was also a sweetness to it. There was indeed a peace that surpassed all understanding (Phil 4:7) that came when I poured out my heart to Him, with prayer and petition and with thanksgiving. There was hope in knowing that what scripture says is true, always and completely, independent of our circumstances. God was with us, He would always be with us. There was NO WHERE we could go that His presence would not be with us. As it says in Psalm 139: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."
I was not alone. Ethan was not alone. My kids were not alone. We truly had nothing to fear, for His perfect love cast out fear (1 John 4:18). We would not be abandoned or forsaken. Our God is a mighty fortress, a healing God, a refuge, our strong tower, an ever-present help in time of trouble. I thought of story after story of Jesus healing all who came to him. I thought of Jesus simply giving the command, just issuing the word, and the sick being made well.
In this dark night of the soul, it was a time of testing, refining. I felt the questions stir within me. Is all of this that I have believed, that I have read, that I have taught, that I have clung to....it is true? When things get real, is it still true, or is it a book of nice stories? I thought of the disciples being asked if they would turn away too, and them replying, "But Lord, where would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) These are not only moral lessons, children's tales, they are the words of eternal life. I was reminded that God is who He says He is, He does what He says He will do, His promises are always true, He is faithful. God's character is what it is and will never change. Circumstances do not change the fact that He is always good, always faithful, always present. He is strong, He is mighty to save, He is a God who redeems, He is a God of miracles. Most of all, He is a God of love. He is a God I can fully trust, fully rely upon, a God I can put unwavering hope in, knowing that hope in His Name will never disappoint. I can believe in Him, count on Him, wait on Him, trust Him. With the husband that I love, I can trust Him. With the kids that I love, I can trust Him. With the family He has given me, I can trust Him.
The next day another friend showed up early to take the kids while I went back up to the hospital to be with my hubby. I was sure to arrive early and got special permission to arrive before visiting hours to assure I was with him when we met with the doctor to receive results from the previous night's tests. The hours ticked by. It was a sweet and peaceful time together. We watched church on our laptop in the hospital room propped up against the bed with IV's flowing and machines beeping. It was Valentine's Day. Not quite the day we had pictured. We relayed updates via text to friends and family and may even have attained teen-level texting for the day. We were overwhelmed by the prayers, love, and support of family, friends, community, and our church family who all rose up and wrapped their arms around us, near and far. Finally, we received a call, the mass was likely benign. More tests would take place, we still knew very little, we still had lots of waiting, but we praised God for the extremely good news we had been asking for.
Fast forward again, we know many more details, are back home, and we are still waiting. We know the mass is a meningioma. We know it is actually on top of the brain and is in a location where they can do surgery to remove it, praise God. We know that while the prognosis is good, there is still brain surgery in the next few weeks and that is a huge deal. We know that this is far from easy-breezy, and there are still great hurdles ahead. But we also feel incredibly thankful. Thankful for receiving "the best version of bad news" as one of our friends put it. Thankful to not have to do immediate surgery but for a few days to be back together with our kids. Thankful for friends and loved ones who have absolutely enveloped us in a surge of love, support, prayers, help, meals, flowers, texts, calls, research of doctors for us, watching our kids, little packages dropped on our porch, and even offers to do laundry and clean our house. I cannot overstate the impact this has had on us. We have been blown away by what it is like to be on the receiving end of this kind of love. This is the beauty of the body of Christ. I love seeing the way each person has poured out love to us in their various ways and through their various gifts, and through each little touch and text and act of kindness we have received, we've been reminded all the more that we are not alone, that God loves us, that He is with us, that He will always be with us.
We still have a road ahead to be sure. But one thing we know, that we do not go it alone. God goes before us, He walks alongside us, He is our rear guard. He is a God who can be trusted, not because it will guarantee that we will get the outcome we want, but because we know that HE is good. We have the promise of His presence with us always, the promise that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So we walk this road with Him, we wait on Him, we trust in Him, we plead with Him for smooth surgery and guidance and help and complete and total healing for my husband. And we experience the perfect peace He gives, the peace that surpasses all understanding, even in the midst of circumstances we would never choose. We fix our eyes on Jesus, not jumping too far ahead, not going down the road of what if's, but staying right in this very moment where His grace abounds and His mercy is rich.
I don't know what you are going through right now. Maybe it is something big, maybe it is just the everyday stuff of life- which sometimes is the hardest stuff. But this I leave you with tonight...It is true. Every word, every story, every promise is real. God is who He is, He does what He says He will do. The One who loved us enough to lay down His very life for us will take care of us. We can trust in Him and not be afraid. We can hope in Him and not be disappointed. We can rest in Him and find peace. We can abide in Him and never be alone.