All in suffering

Where Was God When...? (Part 1)

I have a friend from college that I write letters with — old-fashioned, pen-and-paper, “snail mail” letters. We could talk on the phone, but because of where he lives, letters are the most preferable and convenient method of communication for us. Plus, who doesn't love to get a letter in the mail? Our letters are pretty infrequent, but that’s more because of my crazy life with three small children than anything else.

Several years ago, my friend went through a very painful and personal season of suffering, one in which the effects are still being felt today in his life. Trey and I grieved with my friend and supported him as best we could as he walked that difficult road. For years to come, my friend will wake up each morning with the reminder of that season of suffering, and I wonder if that the reminder might never go away for him. I hope it does, though. In the most recent letter I received from my friend, he divulged to me that he has walked away from his faith in Jesus.

In the summer of 2003, I served as a summer missionary at a church plant in Manhattan. While the distance of time has caused many details from that summer to diminish in my memory, one experience stands out to me after all of these years. It was a hot July day, and we were doing an outreach event in a park on the Upper Westside. As the event was in progress, I stood on the outskirts observing our group interact with others when I noticed a man up on a hill that overlooked the park. Dressed in biker’s gear, he stood straddling his bike as he watched our event with curiosity.

If Only...

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Near the end of my pregnancy, the specialist who did my weekly sonograms at the hospital performed a 3D ultrasound for me. I didn’t tell her why I asked for one, but I desperately wanted to see Alisa’s face to search for any features of Down syndrome. I needed to see just to prepare myself for her birth. One of the nurses I had become especially close to wanted to be a part of the sonogram, so she walked down the hall with me early that morning. While we were waiting for the machine to warm up, the nurse, who had just looked at my chart, commented that she’d seen Alisa had a cyst on her brain earlier in gestation. She’d never heard of that type of cyst and asked what it meant. The fact that Alisa had anything abnormal in her brain at any point was news to me.

“Your daughter is going to live; I am so sorry.”

These are the first words the surprised doctor uttered to the parents of Judy Squier on the day of her birth. Born in a time before the technology and convenience of sonograms existed, Judy’s condition of proximal femoral focal deficiency went undetected throughout her mother’s pregnancy. Judy emerged from her mother’s womb on that day with grossly evident birth defects, including a webbed left hand and two undeveloped legs. In her book His Majesty in Brokenness, Judy tells her story, starting with her shocking entrance to the world as her parents overcame grief and heartache and committed themselves to doing all they could for their daughter, even if her body was broken. Judy shares many of her struggles as she also identifies God’s goodness and presence throughout a lifetime of disabilities, hospitalizations, and heartache.