But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9
Sharing this story in the Made for Glory project is bittersweet. Chris, known in our family as Bubba, is my brother-in-law. It is bitter in that I have watched this story unfold for the past 9 years and have felt its weight rest on people in many different ways. It is sweet in that God's glory and grace radiate from it in such a way that I cannot help but find myself worshiping and drawn closer to my Lord Jesus Christ!
I hope you will take the time to read it. It will bless you.
Below is Jeanie's story.
I was raised in a Christian home and brought up with ministry in my blood. I’ve done a little bit of everything in the church in my nearly 60 years and was living on the edge of my dream in 2008. I’d gotten rid of nearly everything I owned and moved to Chicago and from there was headed to Africa. I was scheduled to leave in January of 2009, but my life stopped with a phone call from my daughter. She was sobbing so hard I couldn’t understand her as she tried to tell me that “Bubba” had been in an accident and had been medi-flighted to the hospital in Shreveport Louisiana.
It literally felt like my blood drained out of my body as I fell to my knees in the breakroom at work. My thoughts were fuzzy as I was trying to make out what my daughter was telling me through her tears. I don’t remember going back to the house or getting the flight scheduled, I couldn’t think. I went numb as I kept telling myself God would get glory out of this and my son had to be okay. Well, God would get glory out of it, but my son wouldn’t be okay.
We spent three weeks in ICU – I lived in the waiting area. It was 10 days before I realized I could go down and get something to eat. About that time, I also slipped outside and saw the sun was still in the sky and birds were still singing. My faith was on edge – but I kept holding on. I really expected God to come riding in on His white horse and rescue us. But each dream ended with me waking up in the harsh reality of hospital life. In those moments where my dreams were ending, and my body was waking I many times thought – let this just be a bad dream. But each time, I learned, it was not.
My son had suffered numerous injuries the worst of which was a traumatic brain injury. We were in the hospital for over 4 months before moving to the only nursing home that would take him. They were so gracious and went above and beyond as they asked me to stay in the room with him. Remember, I had nothing. No home. No job. No normal at all to help me shake off the reality before me. We would be in two rehab facilities and two nursing homes before I would get established enough to bring him home about 18 months after the accident. I had to create a new “home,” in another state to do that though.
To say my faith was shaken during this time would be an understatement. I had trusted God and He let me down. After all, I was headed to the mission field and He was supposed to protect my kids. All the scriptures I’d memorized, taught, sang and read over the years became mixed up between my heart and my head. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….. no evil shall befall them…tons of them seemed to taunt me some of those long, hard nights. I asked God the hard questions. About faith. About trust. About protection.
Perhaps my deepest struggle was during those times I wanted to give up. I wanted to say the Bible wasn’t true – it was not trustworthy, and you couldn’t count on it. But each time I really wanted to give up, I couldn’t. And that made me angry. I was mad because God was all I had ever clung to and I really didn’t know anyplace to run or hide. I’d find myself trying to not pray. But my thoughts would become prayers soon enough, I couldn’t stop it.
Deep in my heart, I knew there wasn’t another rock besides our God. There was no other refuge. And besides that, I really wasn’t looking for another place to hide. But for a while, I held out – I couldn’t get past the disappointment. I realized I was like Mary and Martha – Jesus if you’d been here this wouldn’t have happened.
My head and my heart were in constant uproar. My heart always believing, my head reasoning it out. Religious teaching had indirectly told me that faith was a force to keep “bad things” from happening. I continued to read the Bible, searching for some morsel to make things make sense, to make me feel better, to help me cope. One thing I knew for certain was that my circumstances may change, but God would not change. If my life was big enough to change Who He was – then He wasn’t God at all. I reminded myself frequently that He was still God, He was still on the throne, and He had not changed even though my whole world had been ripped out from under me.
When Paul asked about his situation, God told him My grace is sufficient. I wanted to know that. How could His grace be sufficient while my once musician son was laying still in a bed unable to sing, speak or move? Even in my heart’s confusion I knew He had to have some answers. I refused to look for them anywhere else.
Over time, I felt my faith shifting. It was no longer so much in what I could do – not even in my power to believe. I slowly began to realize that faith IS the substance – the answer isn’t the substance to our prayers. Faith is. Faith doesn’t prevent the unthinkable from happening – it carries us through it. I walked through scriptures with new eyes, starting with Hebrews 11. I read and reread familiar passages and concluded that our Bible heroes are just that not because they avoided difficult situations, but they faced and went through them.
Over the last 10 years I’ve learned so many things about life, relationships, pain, faith, God, and myself. I recall one day standing by my son’s bed. He was just laying there, immobile. The option is always there – to leave. But I can’t. I looked at him and told him I couldn’t walk this for him, but I could walk it with him. I felt so much love for him, even through my own grieving processes, I couldn’t leave. Then inside, somehow, I knew that the love that held me by my son’s side in the midst of the pain and confusion, was the same love that held Jesus on the cross for me. He didn’t have it in Him to quit on me – and I couldn’t quit on my son.
God can take our darkest hour and reveal more of Himself to us. There is much comfort to be found in knowing He really won’t leave us – even when life gets ugly. There is a lot of grieving, loneliness, stress, fear, and tons of emotions that run through your heart and mind when you live out a nightmare. But I’m learning new depths of His love, how He carries and sustains when I just don’t have the strength to go on. And I love His word even more now than ever. But I don’t try to shape it to my beliefs - I shape my beliefs to what His word says.
I have to say, if the plan was for me to trust Him less – I trust Him more. If it was for me to create a distance between my heart and His word – It’s closer than ever. Like Job (although I’m definitely no Job!), I have to say. I know my Redeemer lives. He lives and reigns in spite of my circumstances, right through the struggle. The Lord gave me everything I had, and the Lord has taken it away – blessed be the name of the Lord. His answer to his wife was should we only accept the good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? (Job 1-2 NLT) My life’s struggles are not enough to dethrone Him. They’re not enough to dilute His goodness.
For a long time, I cringed when I heard someone say, “God is good.” It was usually in the context of them getting the answer they desired. But I have to say, God is good even when we don’t get the answer we want. The struggle is by no means over – every day brings its own set. But His goodness isn’t measured by what I get and don’t get, what I face or am spared. He is truly good. What about God would we ever be able to measure with our circumstances? Only His faithfulness. The foundation of God stands sure having this seal: He knows those who are His. And I’d love to add that He knows those who are truly His and He won’t let them go even when they want to run away. He keeps us in and near His heart – close enough to carry our burdens, pains and griefs with us or for us when necessary.
The struggle is nowhere near over, and no end is in sight. However, I know that I know that I know – His grace really is sufficient to see us through. The Bible has no exclusionary statements about caregivers. Scriptures don’t say things like, My grace is sufficient for everyone except caregivers. Or when you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you – unless it gets too difficult. He is faithful. There is no “fine print” and He doesn’t have an “opt out” button if the fires of life get too hot. I’m content in Him. I trust Him once again – not because I figured anything out – not because my circumstances changed. But because He is faithful. He is constant. He is mine, and I am His. I like it that way.
Thank you for taking the time to read Jeanie and Bubba's story. I hope it reminded you of the greatness of our God like it did for me. If it impacted you, take the time to share it with others!
If you are someone you know is a caregiver, I'd encourage you to check out Jeanie's blog: Daily Devotions for Caregivers.
If you want to read more stories from the Made for Glory project, you can find them here: Made for Glory