For all of us, days come when it feels as if God breaks your heart….a divorce request you didn’t see coming, the sudden death of your seemingly healthy child, the layoff you feared but could never prepare for. All of these tragedies share something with a horrible personal medical diagnosis: loss of control. If you’ve experienced something like this, you can relate to, as one of my doctors put it, “getting the rug pulled out from under you.”
At first, it feels like a free fall, so out of control, as if it is happening to someone else. The names and words seem familiar, but your mind won’t let you accept that it’s reality. Then it becomes more like God picking up the pen. But this is not the way you would have written the story; it doesn’t even seem to make sense. This is so very unlikely to be happening to me. Although I have a family history of cancer and other diseases, there’s not a hint of heart problems anywhere. Even remembering the pledge I made to God just before my diagnosis that I would do anything to make a difference in His kingdom, it was difficult most days to accept His plan.
Maybe you’ve felt the same way….you’ve got the wrong person! But as God takes the pen and begins writing the rest of your story, the story you have so carefully crafted up to that point, there is a strange peace that starts to come. A knowing that He is in control. It doesn’t happen at first. In fact, throughout my illness and even still, I have often wanted to grab the pen back and clench it in my childlike fist – there were so many things that I had planned that aren’t going to happen now. Then the sense of how unfair and unlikely it is dissolves into that peaceful knowing. A knowing that God MUST be involved for things to be happening in this very unlikely way. I feel the panic ease, realizing my God will take this and use it for a kind of good I can’t even imagine. As an added bonus, even with the profound disappointment, I have been overwhelmed with support and blessings that I would have never known otherwise.
In The Shack, William P. Young brilliantly writes that we often try to interpret life “through the knothole of our pain.” When we do, we get a very incomplete picture. Instead of living in the middle of it, I wish I could have viewed it from a distance, seen all the inner workings and detailed connections God was orchestrating. I look back now and wonder if it’s all really happened to me. But it has, right in the middle of ordinary life. However, it is all so very far from ordinary. I can still feel the control slowly and surely twisting from my grip. I can still hear certain knothole-like phrases from several doctors:
“If we’re lucky, it’s pneumonia.”
“I’m doing everything I can to save her life.”
“I think I can help you, I’m just not sure how much.”
“End stage heart failure…but you just keep on living.”
The sting of these words has been softened by the deep knowing that God has been in this from the beginning. It was His idea and plan and He continues to control the storyline. He cares for the plot as well as the characters. Indeed, most of all, I have learned that as He takes control of your story, God has not only the pen, but more importantly you, in the palm of His hand. Even when it feels like He has forgotten you. Isaiah 49:15-16: I will not forget you. I have engraved you in the palms of my hands. Right where those nails went in.
This is, was, and always will be your story. We are merely characters in the plot. Forgive me when I am upset or even indignant because things happen to remind me that I am not in control. Please help me to tell your story the way you want it told.