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It’s Hard to Tell the Difference

My son was in the hospital. Did I tell you that? He was. My beautiful, tall, wildly talented, poetically sensitive son was in the hospital for a week. He’s out now, but he’s not better. The doctors say he never will be. (“Manageable” is the word they used, I think?)

My friend’s little girl was healed. Beautifully. Wondrously. Healed. People prayed. They wept. They stormed heaven with Kleenex and casseroles. And when the doctors gave the word, everyone praised and clapped. It was a victorious time.

For us there won’t be healing. Not that kind anyway. Just a long, long road of pushing forwards and backward fallings down. Of doctors and pills and networks of accountability. That’s what we can expect. And I need to reconcile with that. I need to.

But I’m not reconciled. Not yet.

If I sound faithless, maybe I am. Or maybe I’m just tired. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.) I don’t know. I can tell you that sunny days looks different in a hospital; when the sunlight filters through the curtains and the glass and the words on your son’s IV bag. It’s distorted and blurry. Like the feelings in your heart.

I can tell you that following an ambulance is a tricky affair. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when your heart is on the roadway ahead of you.

I can tell you that hospitals are cold. And lonely. And that the space between two beds in the same room can be an abyss. (But I can’t tell you the pain of touching your child’s hand and not his heart. That is something I cannot describe.)

I can tell you that odd moments slip up and take your breath away. Like waking, blinking at the sunlight, and staring at the doctors who are staring back at you. (That’s when the realization comes and strangles your heart: “Oh… yes… that’s right. Now I remember.”) Or when they think that you’re really your son’s sister and you just sit there, not wanting to correct them, wishing with all your heart that just this once, you didn’t have to be the grown-up. And though it’s jarring and funny and disorienting all at the same time, you can’t tell if your tears are from mirth or from some secret place of sealed-off grief.

I can tell you that sometimes “my God, my God” is the only prayer, and that, sometimes, it’s enough. Other times “why” arises like a mantra and you begin to plead. Then there are times when wrath inflames your soul and you think, “Lord how could You?” But the Accused bends low to answer: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all…” (Romans 8:32-37) The words, they leave you breathless, and you look at your son and you think of the cost—of the infinite worth of that other, greater Son. “My God, I’m sorry” is all you can say, and somehow in Christ it is enough.

I can tell you that praise is costly to the God who is faithful. (You know it at any rate, even if you can’t yet feel it. Not that you feel much anyway; nothing but the shock.) I can tell you that the words “He gives and takes away” are among the most costly known to man, and that “blessed be the Name of the Lord” is an entire surrender of the will (see Job 1).

I can tell you that Scripture looks different in the light of the day. The day. That day. The day when all the answers come undone. When you open your Bible and all you see are the shadows of driplines curling like question marks across the pages. The Truth too, it tastes different when salted with tears and with fire; when it doesn’t sweetly melt, and you have to chew on it a while. It’s just different.

If I sound faithless, maybe I am. Or maybe I’m just tired. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.) At any rate, I’m grateful for the words of Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, and the healing they bring to my soul.

I cannot make myself happy, but I can remind myself to believe. [I can say] ‘No, I do not feel anything, but whether I feel it or not, I believe the Scriptures. I believe God’s Word is true and I will stay my soul upon it. I will believe in it come what may.’

If you find that your feelings are depressed do not sit down and commiserate with yourself, do not try to work something up but… go directly to Him and seek His face… If you seek the Lord Jesus Christ and find Him there is no need to worry about your happiness and your joy. He is our joy and our happiness, even as He is our peace. He is life. He is everything.

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