My entire life I have heard people say that they don’t believe in God because of science. I have heard others say if only God would perform a sign/miracle I would believe. Then they wait for a shooting star to hit them in the head and point a finger when it doesn’t. Signs and miracles do happen if you open your eyes. Some may chalk this story up to random events and my own misperceptions; a matter of circumstance that I read too much into desperately searching for an answer to why all of this has happened to my family. It is not. I implore you to believe in signs and miracles. Signs and miracles are all around us. God is still very much in the business of performing them every day. We simply don’t listen or pay attention. I get it, trusting God is hard!
Last April we were told that Jonathan had a tumor. A couple months and numerous invasive and noninvasive tests later we were told it was cancer; neuroblastoma. The oncologist believed it might be a type of congenital neuroblastoma that likely existed in his body prior to birth. It is often discovered during routine, prenatal ultrasound. Christina and I sort of scoffed at this notion as there had been nearly weekly prenatal ultrasounds of Jonathan after his heart condition had been discovered. Since his birth he has had more imaging of the inside of his body than we can count. In addition to the countless echos, he’s had MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and xrays on essentially his entire body. For instance during his bout with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) he had chest/abdominal xrays every 6 hours for a week, then every 12 hours and eventually every 24 hours during a 3 week time period and countless additional xrays in the time since then. At some point this mass should have been discovered prior to him being 9 months old.
The oncologist explained to us that without the complex heart condition the preferred course of action would be to operate to remove the tumor. Due to the location of the tumor such a surgical procedure would require Jonathan’s chest to be opened up again and his team of surgeons and specialists felt it would be too difficult. Let me rephrase that, not difficult; potentially lethal as it could cause too much stress on his body. The team really wasn’t quite sure what to do with this second rare diagnosis. One medical professional told us Jonathan’s case is as rare as “winning the powerball back to back.” In the end the decided course of action was to wait. Wait and see if the tumor would grow, stay the same, or maybe shrink (as congenital neuroblastoma can sometimes do). Seriously God, your timing doesn’t work for me at all! Trusting God is hard.
This plan was not exactly a reassuring option for a dad like me who envisions the cancer as black toxic sludge creeping throughout Jonathan’s tiny body poisoning everything it comes into contact with. Yeah man, these past months have been exhausting. Over the summer Josiah and I have both undergone surgeries that appear to have been successful. Josiah’s to repair a “kidney reflux” and mine for my knee. We should be openly rejoicing in our healing but instead it feels like we are treading open water in a rip current with a weight around our neck. Our strength is waning and at any given moment we will disappear forever. Staying the course and waiting on a miracle has been a mind smasher.
The stress of awaiting the latest tumor imaging has been crushing. I have frequently asked God for clarity and received the same answer over and over: “the outcome has never changed” referring a previous message God spoke to us that Jonathan would “be ok.”
I responded to God “but you said that before he had cancer!” I now question God’s original answer because my mind cannot rationalize what is happening.
God, this is not the course of healing that I imagined!
Trusting God is hard.
I knew it was an uphill battle. I see the despair in people’s eyes when I tell them that Jonathan has been diagnosed with a neuroblastoma tumor. I try to remain positive and say “Jesus is going to heal this too! When he does, what a story it is going to be!” They obligatorily nod and halfheartedly say something like “it sure will be.” I see the doubt in many of the forced smiles. It affects me internally as I begin to doubt myself and God. It affects me so much that I secretly wonder how long I can continue trusting without seeing a sign. How much more can I endure physically and emotionally before I just can’t trust God anymore.
Several weeks ago I was in church, once again asking for clarity. The weight of the anchor was pulling me down. The rip tide had me headed out to open water. I prayed, “God are we moving from Colorado Springs?” “Do we need to relocate with my job?” “Will Ethan ever come home?” “Is Jonathan dying?” I began to weep in the middle of worship time. I sat down and put my head in my hands. I was now sobbing without regard to what those around me thought, “God I am so tired. I can’t go on emotionally. I am at the end physically. Please help. I trust you with everything. Please help me move forward. I feel so alone and am about to give up. Quitting is not an option, I. NEED. YOUR. HELP!”
I hear a different response “My son, you will have clarity in the next 30 days. Move forward, I am with you.” Encouraged, I get up and move forward.
On a Saturday I went for a much needed fishing/camping trip with my friend. We backpacked about a mile in to fish. Following a very successful fishing venture I sat on the rock to spend some time with my Father in thanks and prayer. I asked for some clarity and “casually” elbow God with a brief reminder that a promise was made some 24 days ago. It is just a prodding nudge to make certain God didn’t lose us on his calendar. I mean who knows exactly how the space time continuum works after all. Now I quote Cher from the movie Clueless “ As if!” I pulled my Bible out of my fishing backpack and began reading where the golden ribbon bookmark ended the last time I read.
John 4 is where my golden ribbon bookmark held place. What God wanted me to see was not in the beginning of the Chapter. It was in the end. You got it, right around John 4:47
When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”
“Are you kidding me! Of all of the places for my golden ribbon bookmark to have landed! I know this is not a matter of chance. I stand up, laugh, clap my hand and show my friend what I uncovered and say “thank you and praise Jesus!”
The following Tuesday Christina and I arrive at Children’s Hospital to check in our little boy to be knocked out with general anesthesia for about the 20 millionth time in his 13 months alive. For all those who assume putting your child under sedation for a procedure gets easier after 20 million times, it doesn’t. It is still as hard and as scary as it was the first time. Like usual, God guides Jonathan out of anesthesia without any issues. We should be conditioned not to ask results as we know the care team won’t know them immediately, but we ask anyway. As usual we are told we will have to wait until our scheduled appointment on Thursday to find out the results.
Later that day on the drive home Christina received a phone call. She says “It’s Children’s.” I say “they are probably reminding us of our Thursday appointment.” She casually answers it. I can here the tone in Christina’s voice change. She says out loud “the tumor has shrunk.” This is what tears of joy feel like.
In our follow-up meeting with the oncologist we are greeted by a completely different oncologist than we had previously encountered. It was the same doctor but her entire demeanor had changed to a laughing, smiling, optimistic doctor. She happily explained that she thinks Jonathan’s tumor has shrunken because the cancer was congenital. Christina and I believe the tumor has shrunk because of you. Because of God. You prayed and God answered!
Jonathan’s healing process has a long way to go and while the tumor could grow again the oncologist thinks this is an unlikely scenario. She thinks the cancer is well on its way to disappearing in the next year. This, my friends, is not science. I am not saying that God cannot use science to heal. Look at my knee and Josiah’s kidney. God used science through doctors to heal both of us. This, however, is a real life genuine miracle to not be passed off as a matter of circumstance. It feels like God is saying: Here is your shooting star. It just hit you on the head! Open your eyes, miracles and signs are everywhere daily.
God is not dead. He is in the healing business. I am not the first person to say that waiting on the miracle of healing is not easy. God’s timing rarely matches ours. His methods come in the fashion we would not have chosen. His outcomes are all too often inconspicuous and easily overlooked. If you’re asking for a miracle God is going to stretch you. Sometimes you are not going to get your desires. Remember that whole sovereign thing? Isn’t this what faith is all about? Trusting God is hard.
God is not dead. Jesus is still in the business of healing.