I’m not sure who the comedian was who said that when you have a child your chances of being head-butted increase by 400 percent, but they were spot on. We have a relatively newly born son and he often tests this theory. For the most part, these bumps and bangs don’t seem to faze him too much, but there is the odd time where the impact is increased and he follows up with a cry that only a young child can create.
Even at the tender age of nine months, he knows what it’s like to feel pain. As a dad, my natural instinct is to protect him from as much pain as I can, but I know already that there is no way that I can cover all angles. I can’t be there every time he falls, every time he hurts himself at football (I’m praying he doesn’t take up rugby) or any time a girl breaks his heart (when he’s 35).
I wish I could promise him that life won’t hurt but I can’t, because at times it just does, and the best I can do is teach him and model how to deal with pain and choose hope in the midst of it.
People who follow Jesus find that hope is a tension. We fully believe in His goodness and His ability to do the impossible – even when all around us would suggest otherwise – but we’re also aware that there are times in our lives where it hasn’t worked out for the best. This tension causes all of us to make a choice and this choice has consequences as we move forward.
Our son isn’t the only child that my wife and I have had the privilege to parent. In 2010, we found out we were pregnant with our first child; a little girl who we named Cara. At week 20 of the pregnancy we realised that all wasn’t well with our daughter and after subsequent scans and increasingly worried frowns on the consultants’ faces we were informed that our daughter, if she survived birth, would have a very limited life. They had no concept of exactly what she had, but they knew it wasn’t good.
We had a tension.
We listened and valued the opinion of the medical experts – but we believed in a God who could heal, so we prayed. With each scan we went with renewed hope of a miraculous healing, only to be hit with more bad news.
Cara was born on 6 May 2010 and after 16 brave days she passed away. She had a condition which had only reported 1 in 50 cases worldwide and there was nothing anyone could do.
We are not the first people in the world to be faced with a disappointment such as this and like anyone else, once the initial shock had worn off; we had a choice to make.
We had to choose what was deeper: our pain or our God.
In order to make this choice we needed to establish what our hope was in. We desperately wanted to have a family and we had hoped for a good outcome but it wasn’t where our hope was based; we hoped for Cara but our hope was in God.
We knew in God there was a hope and a plan that was beyond circumstance. At this stage in our journey, we didn’t know if we’d ever be able to have kids again, but we knew that we needed to push into hope regardless of the answer to this question. We continued to engage with God and what He was doing in our lives, we didn’t want to miss out on the hope He was unleashing in our community and while we honestly journeyed with Him and the people around us, He continued to heal our hearts and restore hope bit by bit.
Sometimes doing this was difficult. It was hard at times to go to church and see people who didn’t always know what to say; truthfully I would have sooner stayed at home, but we chose to re-engage. It wasn’t always easy to see other kids who were about Cara’s age grow up around us, but we chose to welcome them while still remembering our daughter. It was sometimes hard to listen to other people’s pain without becoming frustrated, but we chose to listen with compassion and care.
Pushing into hope is a choice. It doesn’t just land on your doorstep. You have to choose it every day.
Any time we face situations like this, we are so tempted to ask the ‘why’ question. But I think the more important question for us all is how; how do we face the future? Many people older than us are still sinking in the pain that they first felt 10, 20, 30 years ago. They have every right to feel aggrieved or angry at what they have experienced, but they don’t have to live in this place for ever. Healing is available.
We are delighted that we have our son now; he is a joy and a delight, but he is not our healing. He is a really fun part in our journey and through him we have experienced a lot of joy, but we had to be healed before he arrived or else we would have introduced him into a world of comparison, a world of having to meet our needs and so we put off any future plans until we were healed.
Pain will happen, but it is vital that we choose hope in the midst of it. We need to grieve but not become grief; we need to experience loss without feeling lost – and all because we’ll push into a God who is deeper than our pain is.
You can hear Neil talking in depth on Dealing with Disappointment here.
Image by Bern Altman, stock.chng images.