Last week baby Will turned 10 weeks old. Last week I held him a little closer. I breathed in the scent of his fuzzy little head deeper and longer. I rocked him to sleep a few times instead of "laying him down drowsy." Last week I savored my son and praised the Lord for his life each time I kissed his squishy little cheeks. Last week marked the one year anniversary of a very scary day for my family.
A year ago my sister discovered that her then 10 week old was in congestive heart failure. He was airlifted to another hospital to receive the care he needed and she was not allowed to ride with him. Her sick baby was physically taken from her and she was completely powerless to help him. He was put on bypass and underwent open heart surgery later that week. At a followup appointment, they discovered that his sutures had not held, and doctors had to repeat the surgery, meaning my sister and her husband had to relive the nightmare all over again. The second surgery was a success. Last week my precious nephew turned One.
I had nightmares the whole week leading up to the anniversary of that day. I dreamed that I lost my husband. I dreamed that my sister got cancer. I dreamed that I found Will facedown and not breathing. In my dreams the things and people that I held most dear were ripped from me. I double checked the baby monitor constantly, straining my eyes to see the up and down motion of Will's tummy. "Okay. Still breathing." The remembrance of those days in the life of my family brought to the surface all of my fears of loss.
Becoming a mother has brought out a fierce love and protective instinct I didn't know I possessed. Those maternal qualities are given by God and are extraordinary. But they also predispose us to a false understanding about our position in the cosmos. The sense of responsibility we feel for the people around us is beautiful, but if we aren't careful, we can elevate ourselves to a position above God. Paul's words in Romans 11 bring perspective.
if I only give to God to receive back from him, then he is not worth worshipping.
If God is is a genie that is required to submit to my demands, then he is not worth worshipping.
If I am wiser than he is, know better than he knows, am able love my child more than he can, or have more control over the life of my family than he has, then he is not worth worshipping.
The fact that God is infinitely more wise, knowledgeable, loving, and in control than I am changes the way I fulfill my role as a mother. It enables me to delight in my child with thanksgiving as God's good gift and hold him with open hands because I know God authored, created, ordained, and ultimately sustains his life (in this world and the next). It changes my response to the "what ifs" in my mind. It allows me to exhale because if the worst case scenarios that I dream did in fact happen, God would still be good, and he holds everything together. He would still be worth worshipping.
I marvel at my sister's faith during that season as her son was taken out of her hands. She watched him endure pain and struggle to breath and turn blue over and over without being able to hold him. But during this season she proclaimed God's goodness and found comfort in his sovereignty. She was fully convinced of her helplessness as a mother by her circumstances... and therefore more able to see God for who he is. Worthy of worship in every circumstance because we are all at the beautiful mercy of his hands.
The question still arises... "Why?" "How unfathomable his ways..." means that sometimes we cannot and will not understand the pain that God allows in our lives. The good news is, scripture is filled with stories of the hardships endured by God's people... and not a one of their circumstances change the character of God. Nothing we experience changes who he is. If Stephen had never gotten sick, God will still be good and wise. If Stephen had not lived, God would still be good and wise.
We can hold are children with open hands, because they've been in His hands all along. We can trust him with the lives of the ones we love because He does know best. He knows what is best for us. And what is best for us is inexplicably tied to his glory. Our chief end is to glorify and enjoy him forever. In every circumstance and season. This relieves our fears. This restores our joy. This causes us to worship.
We can sing the refrain "You will reign forever" with absolute confidence, comfort, and joy.