They intubated Ella and did their best to stabilize her in the ER. She was put into an induced coma so they could begin running tests to find out what was wrong with her. Jody (my wife) and I went with her for a head CT and then quickly to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The results of the CT showed a massive brain bleed. Though the news was hard to hear, I was actually hopeful in the beginning. I remember telling my wife "it's not good news, but at least they know what the problem is now and can start treating her." The first step in treating her was to alleviate the pressure on her brain from the swelling that was happening as a result of the bleed. She was rushed into emergency surgery as we were rushed into a conference room to meet with her doctor.
"I feel the need to be straight-forward with you concerning what we're looking at", he said. I immediately felt my heart sink into my stomach. He continued, "It doesn't look good. In fact, there's a big chance that she won't make it through this surgery."
As you read this, take just a moment to think of someone you love more than anything in this world. Close your eyes and picture them in perfect health, loving life and living a normal day to day existence. Now, picture them ripped from your arms and laying on a hospital gurney with a tube down their throat and machines breathing for them. Some of you reading right now may know exactly what that feels like. If you are imagining it, multiply that feeling of helplessness and desperation by a million. THAT is what we felt in those moments. As a dad, one of my primary roles is to protect my children. Standing there helplessly watching her being taken to a surgery she may not return from left me with feelings of guilt, failure and desperation. My little girl was fighting for her life and I was powerless to fight for her.
As I tried to wake myself from what felt like a horrible nightmare, I didn't have some profound thought that was a comfort to me. Jody and I were not resting in the Lord with no anxiety or pain. Instead, we were hurting with a hurt I have never felt before in my life. We cried. Together, we just cried. I was openly sobbing as the reality of what was taking place began to pierce my heart like a dull blade.
God never said life would be easy and no one would ever suffer. Instead, Psalm 46 describes desperate circumstances like this:"....the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea," and "its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." I definitely felt my world crashing all around me. I now know what it must feel like to be tossed in an angry sea that overpowers and overwhelms. However, that entire passage of scripture says, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, I WILL NOT fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
No matter our circumstances, truth is truth and truth does not change. I can choose to dwell in verse two as my world crumbles all around me and concede defeat when all I can see is the catastrophe. Or, I can choose to run into my refuge and find strength to face my circumstances. I can choose to bow to fear and allow it to overtake me. Or I can choose to rest in the God that is bigger than my fear. In that moment, we hurt. In that moment, we felt hopeless and desperate. And in that moment, we felt God holding us.
As believers, we will hurt. We will mourn. We will grieve. But, we will be comforted. We will be held. We will be loved. Romans 8 has long been my favorite passage in scripture, but it now carries a newfound meaning for me. In fact, Romans 8:35, 37-39 says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Many years ago when I was a student at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, a tragedy took place at the nearby Wedgewood Baptist Church. A gunman opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd of young people as they attended an event at the church. I remember the Pastor of that church, Al Meredith, as he stood before the press moments after arriving on the scene, answering the cold-hearted question, "Where was your God when this happened?" As I stood in that room on the 3rd floor of Children's Hospital of Georgia praying my baby would make it through surgery, that Pastor's response to tragedy rang through my mind, "He was in the same place He was when His own Son died on the cross." He was still on the throne then, and He was still on the throne October 5 as my daughter was undergoing emergency brain surgery.
Whatever you are facing, He's still on the throne. Take it from me, there is no circumstance that is bigger than our God. In the midst of tragedy, you too can join with me in holding to the truth of this great hymn lyric, "my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."