“Do you think you can eat some breakfast this morning?” My husband and I gently urged our nine year old daughter to look at the hospital menu.
“French toast sounds good,” she replied, to our delight. Looking at the options, we asked if she wanted berries and whipped cream with it.
“Yes!” Was that actually enthusiasm we could hear in her voice?
When the breakfast tray arrived, she clapped her hands in glee as a grin spread itself from ear to ear. We celebrated that meal. I snapped her picture, proclaiming across my social media accounts that our beloved daughter was eating breakfast! That’s not normally something worth noticing, but weeks of undiagnosed pain and loss of appetite, followed by emergency surgery and a brush with death was enough to attune my heart to these baby steps of her recovery.
Her appendix had ruptured, and she had had emergency surgery. But then her body just would not get better. The combination of antibiotics she was being given was not doing its job, and day after day we watched as she withered away, unable to keep any food down. When it appeared that her internal organs were shutting down, she was taken by ambulance to a children’s hospital in a neighbouring province, where, thankfully, they dealt with this sort of thing on a regular basis. Praise God, they knew exactly the right combination of medications to give her in order to beat the infection that was threatening her life. And within days, she turned a corner, ordering French toast with berries for breakfast.
Suffering can stop us in our tracks and bump us into a completely different life orbit. When a loved one ends up in hospital, we lose all track of time. Our internal clock begins to revolve instead around the administration of medications and the beeping and blinking of bedside monitors. All the pressing demands of normal life are instantly exchanged for keeping watch at a bedside for any signs of improvement. Pain has a way of attuning us to the smallest of victories, because when life knocks you that low, you readjust your idea of success and look and listen for even the slightest indication of healing.
I know of a couple right now who are walking an arduous journey after a traumatic accident. Their periodic updates highlight every little step in the right direction — a slight movement regained in the body’s extremities, a new food reintroduced successfully, a single night without restlessness. Wiggling a toe, eating a spoonful of yogurt, or sleeping through the night are not usually considered noteworthy achievements, but for them, these are victories to be noticed and celebrated.
Pain and suffering slow us down, forcing us into a mode of waiting and watching and wondering that, I believe, can open our ears to God’s whispering ways. I think of Elijah hiding out in a cave, despairing of his life. When God asked him what he was doing there, he said,
I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.I Kings 19:10 NIV
Can you hear the fear in Elijah’s words? The bitterness? The self pity? The despair? His lone righteous voice must have seemed like nothing more than a strand of seaweed bobbing on a giant tidal wave of evil. He had been zealous, but he was now weak, and he was one. God responded by sending a mountain-shattering wind, then a dreadful earthquake and a consuming fire. But was God Himself in all that fury? No. God came as a gentle whisper, as gentle perhaps as one man’s voice amidst a mighty throng of pagan prophets. And what comfort there must have been in that whisper! It was a size and volume Elijah could identify with. If God Almighty could work in a whisper, then maybe there was hope for Elijah to keep going, weak as he was.
If suffering has landed you in your own cave of despair today, look closely and listen carefully. Let God transform your expectations for earth shattering results into a simple joy in His quiet presence. Yes, our God can move mountains and split seas for us! But sometimes His hope comes on the wings of a whisper. Don’t miss it. Open the eyes of your heart wide to see Him right there with you in the narrowness and restriction of your pain. Listen for His gentle whisper moving you ever closer to His heart, because each step in that direction is worth noticing and celebrating, no matter how small it seems.
This article was originally posted at Well Christian Woman.
Your can read more about our journey with our darling daughter here: