I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (NIV)
On October 28, 2021, my day started with great expectation. I was in a flurry of activity getting ready to fly to Illinois to speak at one of my favorite women’s conferences. It had been a while since I had the privilege of speaking to a live audience and I was thankful God provided the opportunity to pour into women’s lives face to face once again. As the afternoon sped by, I had many tasks to accomplish so I could leave for a whirlwind 36 hours.
Last on my domestic “To Do” list was a job I did not love – watering the gunite of our under-construction pool so that the concrete-like compound could cure and become rock hard before the next phase of the project. I had been doing this twice a day for over a week with seven more days to go. It was a difficult project for my husband because he’d suffered a traumatic spinal injury two years earlier playing rugby. (More about that later).
In my rush to complete my task, I made a foolish choice and decided to take a short cut by walking across the elevated hot tub ledge. I thought I was being extremely careful. I’m a skier after all, with great balance. But, OOOPS! I did not have my usual balance on this particular afternoon. One moment I was watering the pool and the next moment I was at the bottom having fallen about 7 feet onto the harder than hard surface. One moment life was business as usual with great plans for the weekend and the next moment, I was a stunned and broken.
My husband, who had seen me topple off the ledge from his study, came rushing out unsure of what he’d find as I’d been silent for at least 30 seconds having had the wind completely knocked out of me. As I lay crumpled at the bottom of the pool, I remember muttering, “This is not good. This is really, really bad. I’m hurt super bad.” And I was.
However, as the hours and days passed, I realized it could have been so much worse. My daughter’s friend told her that her grandmother had actually died falling into an empty pool doing the same thing I’d been doing. More gruesome reports from other friends and acquaintances sobered me. I could have easily broken my neck and been completely paralyzed…or worse.
Within 24 hours, I’d found the most awesome orthopedic surgeon who “just happened” to be a West Point grad, just like my husband. This was comforting because he had a strength and no-nonsense personality that gave me confidence despite his extremely forthright first words to me as he opened the door to the exam room after reviewing my x-ray: “So, you’ve got a real mess here. It’s like an iceberg ready to fall apart. You need surgery immediately!”
I’d suffered a very severe break to my right tibia and a much less severe compression fracture of my spine. The plan was to insert an 8-inch titanium plate with lots of pins to hopefully hold my leg bone together while it healed. My surgeon told me that there was a chance I would not walk normally again. Only time would tell – after months of physical therapy.
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
I share this story because it is so easy to wonder why God allows things like this to happen. How do we interpret the “bad stuff” of life accurately? And as importantly, how do we face off the future in our new state of brokenness whether physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual?
For me, this most current set back was yet another challenge added to the past several years of various relational heartbreaks and health crisis. Both my 44-year-old daughter and I faced off breast cancer in 2020. Mine was stage one and involved a lumpectomy. Hers was stage 3 and a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and naturopathic chemo. I had asked God why I could not take on the more serious diagnosis instead of her at her younger age? At 68, I’d lived a full life. Why must she take the harder diagnosis? It had been a really draining year, learning to trust God with both of our lives no matter what the test results told us. I’d prayed for wisdom and healing daily and helped my beautiful daughter keep her eyes on Jesus despite her diagnosis. God showed up in so many beautiful ways and as of this writing, Jamie is considered in remission and just got married to the most wonderful man ever. I was able to attend the wedding only 9 days post-op. I was even able to stand without my walker for a few pictures as others propped me up. Needless to say, I did not dance at our daughter’s wedding!
When our “normal” life is disrupted, we have an important decision to make as we face off the challenge before us. We can choose to become victims and wallow in discouragement and self-pity or we can choose to see our circumstances through spiritual eyes. Now, that’s easy to say. But living it out is a greater challenge. I’m not a spiritual giant, but I have been walking with Jesus for a long time. Some years more closely than others. He’s seen me through marital issues, a pregnant teenaged daughter, another daughter in prison, a prodigal son with substance abuse issues, and of course the more recent life speed bumps.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
So, by the time I landed at the bottom of our empty pool, I knew one big spiritual truth very, very well. God wastes NOTHING! He can and will take every hard circumstance and use it for His glory and our good. I’ve seen it time and time again. The fastest way to begin to realize that “good” is to choose to see the current issue with spiritual eyes. It takes one choice and a lot of prayer to stay the course. That’s our part. God always does His.
Here’s the rub: God doesn’t promise how or when we’ll realize the good. We must love and trust Him enough to believe He knows best. In my life, I’ve usually seen miracles within a year or two of my most difficult trials. But, I also know that God may choose for the good to be revealed in eternity. That may not be my first choice, but I’ve learned that the promise of Romans 8:28 requires that I fully embrace and surrender to the sovereignty of God. After all, He is God and I am not! There are many things I will not fully understand this side of Heaven.
So, even as I waited to see a doctor in the emergency room on the very night of my accident, I began to wonder: How is God going to use this for my good and His glory? I know it may sound weird, but I had just a little excitement imagining what He could and would do with my current calamity. Don’t get me wrong. I really did not want to be broken. I wanted to avoid the pain and potential lasting limitations that could follow. But, I just knew He would redeem anything that was lost.
In the days and weeks that followed, I was given a huge awakening to something I had only imagined: What it feels like to be completely dependent on others. I finally experienced how hard it is to be the “slow one” trying to walk around a store. And I remembered some of my unspoken impatience walking at a snail’s pace with my elderly parents. And then, I realized how hard it was to not know for sure if I’d be able to do simple things like walk my dog or go for a hike in the months and years ahead.
But the biggest way I first benefited from my current circumstance was because my husband, Lew has been living with a spinal injury – unable to feel anything from the knees down for over two years. He wears custom made braces that go up to his knee so he can have stability and a “point of contact” he can feel to walk. He looks like the Bionic Man when he’s wearing shorts! He uses a walker or crutches so he can walk without falling. He lives with the possibility that his current reality could be the best he can expect. Nevertheless, he tells me often that he will walk normally once again. He simply does not give up on trusting God for complete healing in His perfect timing.
As I laid in bed recovering from my surgery, I began to appreciate how hard the past two years must have been for him. And I marveled at how he’s never felt sorry for himself. He just looks for solutions. People are blown away when they hear that he’s just completed a ten-mile walk, or see him around our property with a weed whacker strapped around his neck with a rope and hobbling on one crutch so he can continue to do his usual Saturday chores.
I thanked God that I got a glimpse of what my husband has been through. We’re both semi-recovered “Type A’s” so being in control is important to us. We’ve both had to learn to let others help us – that we don’t always have to be the “strong ones”. We’re learning patience, trust, and an appreciation for our health and well-being – something we both took a bit for granted. God is growing us in perseverance for sure!
Today, we both use walkers around the house and joke with each other about the traffic jam on the way to our home offices. We wonder what people think as Lew pushes me in my wheelchair while I hold his crutches as we wheel into church. We hope they realize that we’re both “works in progress” that God is building into stronger, more godly versions of our former selves as we look up and watch for the “good” He is working together day by day. And now, for the first time in my life, I can sign off with these words:
I AM titanium!
In God, I’m stronger than strong and completely “whole” despite my current condition. So are you, dear woman of God.