When All You Can Do Is Trust God
Recently, I started binging on the series Grey’s Anatomy.
When someone is on the verge of death, why do doctors look the patient straight in the eyes and tell them they are going to be fine? We all sense it. We all know everything’s not fine. We all know it could turn out either way.
I’m sure doctors know the stress of worry is not good for anyone and won’t change the situation, so it’s best to tip the scale toward hope. I get that. But sometimes it bugs me when you know the patient or family members want to know the reality of their situation. I’m glad McDreamy never disregards or shames a patient for expressing realistic concerns. Derek Shepherd wouldn’t fit that perfect hero archetype if he was unkind.
Sometimes in our efforts to stay positive, we have a tendency to stifle uncomfortable feelings, though. We brush away real pain, afraid of reality, or the discomfort of witnessing the pain of others. Sometimes we do this when pain may need to be felt, expressed, and acknowledged the most.
As Christians, we often recite lingo that focuses on positive thinking as we hope for the best outcomes and expect God to work miracles. It’s taken me a while to understand how difficult emotions mix with faith—or even if they are supposed to.
I’ve been writing about having courageous faith for almost six years on my blog. My research has helped me understand on a deeper level how to trust God when I’m afraid.
God has been teaching me that faith isn’t just about willing ourselves into positive thinking in the midst of a reality that is actually quite grim. It isn’t about pretending everything is ok when it’s just not. It’s not about NOT being afraid.
Faith is not about ignoring our grief and sadness and expecting everything will turn out just fine all the time. Because we all know, sometimes it doesn’t. And acknowledging that reality and preparing in wisdom for it doesn’t mean we are being negative or lacking faith.
Faith means accepting that whether the miracle comes or not, I will still love and be devoted to God. I will still believe that even if the worst happens, God loves me and will take care of me. Real courage is the fight to align my thoughts with the truth—that God will take care of me, no matter what.
But when I see others go through tragedy, I often put myself in their sad situation and wonder if my love and devotion to God would waver if “that” ever happened to me. How would I survive?
I was recently given the opportunity to find out.
In October, a staph infection pumped through my husband’s entire body from his head to his toes. It started with a sore on his elbow. As bacteria and toxins worked their way through every system of his body, they blackened his toes, covered his legs with a rash, ate away his aortic valve, and planted lesions in his brain that caused 2 strokes.
In his 37-day hospital stay, he suffered endocarditis, kidney failure, pulmonary edema, E-Coli, pneumonia, vasculitis, and congestive heart failure.
I’d never seen suffering like this before. Due to Covid restrictions, I couldn’t be with him at the hospital. So we’d talk on FaceTime. When he had been in the hospital for almost a month, he called me at 4 am in the morning, anxious because he was in pain and couldn’t sleep. When he got to the point he couldn’t sleep at all, I stayed up with him throughout the night, once for three nights in a row. He was in congestive heart failure and the doctors hadn’t figured it out yet.
But I knew something was wrong. When morning came, I pleaded with an irritated and defensive nurse over FaceTime to have my husband seen by a cardiologist. She told me it was fine for his heart rate to beat at 120-130 beats per minute and that our hearts were made to “run marathons.” But my husband’s heart rate hadn’t come down in days.
Later that morning, another nurse came in who noticed his decline from the week before and said he needed to go to the ICU. She told me I should bring the kids to see him because it may be the last time they would get a chance before they moved him.
I took the kids out of online school and rushed over to the hospital. It’s hard for me to look at the pictures I took that day. I knew my husband was in grave danger, even if no-one would tell me so. And I wrestled with my gut feeling that this could be the last time my kids would see their dad. His entire body was swollen and he had to stand up in order to breathe. He tried so hard to make conversation with the kids, but his faint smile was covered with grimacing pain.
When I said goodbye to him in the ICU, I didn’t know if he would make it through the night. I asked the nurse to give my husband something to help him sleep so he could lay down. But since he couldn’t lie down with all the fluid around his heart, he would have to stand up until it drained. I wanted to stay up with him that fourth night on FaceTime so he wouldn’t be alone. But I couldn’t bear to watch him suffer anymore—I knew I needed to sleep.
I told God I entrusted Tim to his care. I woke up a few hours later and pleaded with God to end my husband’s suffering without taking him from us. I begged God to bring him home to our family.
In those dark hours, God invited me to trust in his power over my terrifying fear. God didn’t shame me when I was afraid. With open arms of mercy and compassion—he helped me see his love and care for me in a very frightening situation.
Our compassionate God met me when I woke up sick with sadness, wondering if my husband would survive. Would we be able to celebrate our 25th anniversary? Would he be home to see our new kitchen remodel and make memories in it? Would he be able to celebrate Christmas with us? Would I have enough money to take care of my children if he died?
So many things were wrong with my husband, there was no point in googling symptoms to try and figure out what was going on. It was out of my hands. There was no other option but to trust God. It’s all I could do. Not because I was strong, but because I was weak.
The day before Thanksgiving, I waited in a hotel room with my 4 children while my husband had open-heart surgery to replace his infected aortic valve.
I was nervous. I was afraid. But I also hoped for a miracle. I clung to Jesus with all my might.
I repeated the words to a song every time the crippling fear grabbed me, “Jesus, Jesus. You make the darkness tremble. Jesus, Jesus. You silence fear.”
Life can be just plain scary, can’t it? And guess what? Jesus understands that. It’s why he compassionately en-courages us to not be afraid. Not because he expects that we never will be or that our circumstances don’t warrant it. It’s because he wants us to know that no matter what happens, he WILL take care of us. He WILL provide. He will be there for us every single minute, through the fear, the sadness, the grief and the stress of our situation. His love and provision gives us courage.
Courage is nurtured through the perfect song playing on your drive to the hospital, the Thanksgiving meal brought by the school staff, the friend who shows up to sit with you and bring you the same plant you admired on her kitchen table, the friends and neighbors who fill up a meal train for 2 months, and friends who installed a downstairs toilet and vanity since we were in the middle of a remodel. It thrives with every single call, text, and card. It’s in the power of hundreds of prayer warriors, some you barely know, commenting and praying fervently for you on Facebook.
It’s God’s way of holding you up when you feel like you can’t stand. And then he sends you a picture of just that. God holding you up.
When all you can do is cry out to God, he listens to how scared you are. He whispers the truth. Holds you. And like a good shepherd, he helps you get back up. Even when you can’t feel Him. Even when you wonder where He is. Or if you can go on.
Romans 12:12 became applicable to me more than ever in these last few months. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
We can acknowledge the ache of our grief and pain on earth and still be joyful in hope. We can hope for the best outcomes and have joy knowing God will take care of us no matter what. We can remember God’s answered prayers and provision for us in the past to help us have joy in uncertainty.
My husband has an MRI on February 2nd to see if the infection has cleared in his brain. His last MRI showed evidence of the two strokes he had. But they couldn’t tell if the infection was gone.
Since Tim is still on a PIC line that goes straight to his heart, our family has been in quarantine since the end of November to protect Tim from getting Covid.
We hope with joy that the Lord will complete the miracle he began.
We want to be patient in affliction no matter what the outcome.
We are faithful in prayer. We believe 100 percent that the prayer warriors who stormed the gates of heaven on our behalf have helped us receive the miracle of Tim’s present health.
He was admitted to the hospital in October with kidney failure. Praise God, his kidney levels are in the normal range now.
He had a staph infection in his bloodstream. His white blood cell count is normal now.
He came down with an E Coli infection in the hospital and pneumonia. That’s gone.
He had 2 strokes that never affected his abilities. What a miracle!
He had two lesions of staph infection in his brain that never affected his capabilities. More miracles!
His rash and lesions on his feet are almost gone.
They caught his infected aortic valve just in time. He was almost sent home several times before they decided to operate. If he didn’t have open-heart surgery to replace his valve when he did, he would have died from endocarditis.
It was such an answer to prayer to have Tim home for Christmas! I love going on daily walks with him and having more family dinners.
WE PRAISE God for what he has done. We know any good that comes our way is only by His grace. I thank God for every single medical miracle he has given us thus far. I thank him for time with my husband and kids. And I thank my dear fellow sisters and brothers in Christ who have been the hands and feet of Jesus when we needed it most.
We would love your prayers for Tim’s next MRI and Echocardiogram appointment to show no signs of infection. Also, his blood pressure has been high at times, and his blood is not thinning as it should with the blood thinners he’s on.
As my Facebook feed floods with stories of hurting people, I know suffering is widespread. I ache for the pain I see in the world. At the end of the day, we find solace in knowing God is in control. His love conquers all. He’s still good. Still more powerful than all the things we are afraid of. All we can really do is fall helplessly into his love and trust in Him.
UPDATE: It’s almost been a year since this happened in October of 2020. Tim has showed no signs of ongoing infection! Although He is still dealing with some symptoms of having open heart surgery, he is doing quite well.