A few weeks ago, our lives were turned upside down when our three-year-old grandson, Chandler was taken to the hospital by ambulance with severe necrotizing pneumonia. We’re so thankful for the many who have prayed for Chandler in these past days, and we’re thankful for how the Lord has answered prayer in bringing healing.
Although Chandler is now at home and resting well, he still has pneumonia and is taking strong antibiotics. We ask for continued prayers for his full recovery and that he would regain the weight he lost in the hospital.
During those long days in the hospital, there were many times when in a quiet moment I would ask, “Lord, what are You trying to teach me in this?”
As Scripture passages and truths from those moments came together, I wrote them down, and the result was a message of a very different type than I have preached before.
I know that our family wasn’t the only family going through an extended hospital stay or time of difficulty. I pray that these ten truths, jotted down near the hospital bed of a three-year-old struggling to breathe, will be an encouragement to you in whatever challenge or trial you may be going through.
1. God Is Sovereign
I like to plan. I like to develop my plans well in advance. I like to plan down to the last detail. In fact, I did plan hundreds of hours in preparation for Spiritual Leadership Conference…during which I spent most of the time at the hospital.
It was reassuring to me to remember that God is sovereign and that He has a plan and a purpose—not just for changing my plans, but a larger purpose with something special in it even for Chandler.
We know from Scripture that God’s purpose is that we would become more like Christ.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.—Romans 8:28–29
Another purpose of God is that we who receive His comfort could help others through similar trials.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.—2 Corinthians 1:3–4
Sometimes the route we plan to reach God’s purpose is different than the route He plans. In Acts 16, Paul had a plan and was ready to carry it out, but God said “no.” In hindsight, we see that God changed Paul’s plan for a greater purpose. He closed one door of opportunity in order to open a greater one.
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.—Acts 16:7–9
In the unexpected twists and turns of your path, remember that God is sovereign and has a good purpose and plan for you through it all.
2. Mercy May Be Found
In our darkest moments, God is still there.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:7–9
Even when God choses to not remove our suffering, He gives us His grace in the midst of it. He enables us to press on and to continue serving others as well.
We saw these moments of God’s mercy during Chandler’s hospital stay in surprising places.
Some days after the surgery on his lung, Chandler still would cry every time we tried to get him to stand and walk. His legs hurt, and he was fevered and miserable. We finally got him mildly interested in a wagon ride through the hallways of the pediatric ward.
I remember as we turned a corner and saw a social worker with a dog how Chandler’s eyes lit up. For a few moments, Chandler forgot his pain as the man brought the dog near Chandler and let him pet it. Chandler still keeps the little card (like a baseball card) with the dogs picture and name on the little table by his bed.
And just like that, on a heavy afternoon in a lonely hallway of a large HMO, we saw God’s mercy.
There were other moments too. And there are moments of mercy for you in whatever difficulty you are going through.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4:15–16
3. Remember to Be Thankful for the Little Things
There is nothing like great difficulty to remind you of the significance of little blessings.
I remember, for instance, how excited we were when Chandler wanted to blow bubbles through a wand—an exercise we had been trying to interest him in for days. It’s a simple skill, but it brought great joy to us.
Likewise, I remember how excited we were when he started standing and when he walked. The gratitude we felt in all of these “little” things reminded me how often I fail to give thanks for them.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.—1 Thessalonians 5:18
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.—Psalm 68:19
4. Serving a Hurting Heart Is Sowing Seeds that Bring a Great Harvest
When you serve another person, God always uses it. But when you serve a hurting heart, your investment multiplies in its effect. When someone has a broken heart, the encouragement and care you give reach deep into their hearts and bear lasting fruit.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:2
I know that our family will never forget the many expressions of love and care by our church family and from friends around the world. Each word and moment of it has meant so much.
5. Trials Are Common to All People
While we were there at the hospital, there were many others who came in with their children as well and from all different backgrounds—orthodox Jews, Catholics, black, white, wealthy, poor…. But when you are watching a child suffer in pain, none of those identifiers matters. Everyone is just a person then—a person who needs the Lord’s help.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.—1 Corinthians 10:13
Our long days in the hospital and the many people we met (many of whom we were able to witness to) reminded me that people all around us are suffering, and God places us in their path for a reason—to share the love and compassion of Christ.
Encouragement for the Hurting
I’ll share the last five lessons the Lord has been teaching me in part 2 of this post. But could I encourage you in two ways before then?
First, if you are in a season of suffering right now, remember these truths, and meditate on the verses above. The Lord is sovereign and has a purpose you can’t see. He hasn’t forgotten you, and He gives you mercy through your darkest days. Look for and give thanks for the little things.
And second, even if you are not in such a season right now, remember that many people around you are suffering. Seek out and serve hurting hearts, and you will multiply the compassion of Christ.