This past Sunday, Pastor Chuck (Frisco First Pastor) introduced a new sermon series titled ‘In God We Trust.’ I had a different idea of what I was going to write – and then Sunday came. Ha. I completely changed gears and was challenged to lean into my trust in the Lord. At the end of his sermon, Pastor Chuck posed the question, “Do you really trust in God?” Do I really trust Him? Completely and wholly with everything? As I contemplated my own trust, it made me think back to seven years ago exactly to this date – today – as I am writing this (Monday, February 5th). My Facebook memories reminded me that on this day, seven years ago, we took our youngest son Clark to Children’s Hospital in Plano, struggling to breathe with RSV and pneumonia. I wrote about this experience in my book, Mercy in the Mess, and – no doubt – God is leading and making things all work out for His glory and it is by no coincidence that I would feel led to share about this today, seven years later, in a blog post. Many of you already know about this experience and though it took years to heal from this trauma, this experience deeply challenged me to trust in God.
“If you didn’t bring him in tonight, he wouldn’t have made the night.”
Those dreadful words were spoken by an ER nurse at the local children’s hospital the night we brought our youngest son in on Super Bowl Sunday, 2017.
Our son had a slight fever, and I could tell he wasn’t feeling too well. Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl, I took him to the pediatrician’s office and they told me to monitor him and bring him back if he still had a fever on Monday. The next day my husband took our oldest son to pick up dinner from a local restaurant because I didn’t want to cook and wanted to relax for the big game. After they left, I laid my son on the bed to change his diaper when I noticed his arms weren’t flailing around like he usually does – they were more lifeless and just flopped down. Then, I saw his chest concaving deeply when he breathed.
I filmed a moment of it and texted the video to a nurse friend. She immediately texted back and instructed us to go to the local children’s hospital right away and told me that his breathing was distressed. I frantically called my husband and communicated that he needed to come home immediately. We dropped our oldest son off at a neighbor’s house and quickly headed to the hospital. Once there, we were swiftly ushered into a room where I laid my baby on the hospital bed while at least four nurses rushed in and hooked him up to all sorts of machines.
I went into the hallway and sobbed.
My mom was the last person I saw hooked up to tubing and machines, and she died, so my only memory was one of death. I feared for my child’s life. Sitting on the floor of the ER hallway, I cried out to the Lord and prayed through anxious tears.
Moments later, our son was hooked up to an oxygen machine and many other monitors, medicines, and all sorts of things that I don’t remember. I was in fight or flight mode, and honestly, I flew. I was absent, mentally and emotionally. I was scared. I put up a wall and felt hopeless. It was almost like I was just observing the chaos from the outside instead of being in it. I detached myself from it all as a sort of protection that I am ashamed of. If I pulled back, maybe I wouldn’t be crushed like I was when my mom died. It’s horrible to write out, but that is what happened. That is why I ‘flew’ instead of being fully present.
We were in the PICU for six days. Those days were filled with many ups and downs. We were discharged from PICU to the “regular” floor one day, then readmitted to PICU the next because he needed stronger oxygen tubes. I wasn’t allowed to nurse my son and needed to pump. The hospital was so helpful and kindly saved all my breastmilk, but our son didn’t eat for days and wasn’t getting better. The doctors wanted to place a feeding tube – to which I mustered up the last bit of fight I had and told them no – kindly of course, but stern enough that they let me nurse him. It was all monitored to make sure our son didn’t aspirate.
He nursed beautifully.
He was our little “chunky monkey” – at three months old, he weighed a whopping 17 pounds! We joked that he was just hungry and nursing him helped him get the strength he needed to fight RSV and pneumonia. It very well might have been what he needed the whole time – but what we really needed was God.
Just before we fought the nursing battle, my husband and I had a moment of desperation. We hit bottom at the same time. After being in the PICU for multiple days, sleep deprivation setting in, and our son not improving, together we had a moment where we were angry with God.
We both cried out to the Lord, asking Him why our son wasn’t getting better.
We let go of our many emotions and gave them to God. We put it in His hands.
It was such a relief. In the moments following, I felt a wave of comfort that only God could provide.
A beautiful example of depending on God’s peace and protection is quoted in Psalm 3 when David is running for his life, this time from his son, Absalom. In Psalm 3, David cried out to God about how many enemies he had (3:1), but David praised God. He did not camp out in the fear, worry, or doubt. He worshipped God and called Him his shield, protecting him from those against him (3:3). David trusted God and knew that He would be merciful. David was at peace because he knew that whatever the result, God would prevail. We can be strong in our faith, like David, and trust the Lord with any fear we may have because God is merciful. He is faithful. He is our protection – our shield. He is our peace.
Thankfully our son was well enough to be released from the hospital six days after being admitted. Life started getting back to normal, but my body and brain were not.
I was consumed with fear. I lacked faith like David’s. I lacked trust.
I sanitized my oldest son’s backpack as soon as he came home from preschool and bathed him immediately – including weekly detox baths. We wouldn’t go to church during cold and flu season, and we pulled our son out of preschool in the winter months.
We were doing everything we could to control the situation so it wouldn’t happen again. I was running myself ragged – fear, anxiety, all the cleaning, all the sanitizing, all the supplements and vitamins – I was trying so hard to control the situation because when our son was in the hospital, I was not in control and couldn’t fix it. So, I did everything I could once we got home to ensure it didn’t happen again.
My body was worn out. On top of recovering from childbirth (our son was only three months old), I suffered from depression and anxiety. I didn’t sleep or eat well. I was fueled by coffee and sugary, caffeinated drinks, topped off with stress and worry. Everything changed with my body once we got home: I was in post-traumatic stress mode. For me, this was a very traumatic event, and I believe we all have experienced some sort of trauma in our lives. Regardless of what we consider “big” or “small” trauma, it is still trauma, and our body keeps the score. In the aptly named book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk discusses the effects of trauma on our bodies. Not only do we enter fight or flight, but because of that, according to Bessel van der Kolk, many PTSD patients no longer feel fully alive:
“When our senses become muffled, we no longer feel fully alive . . . In response to the trauma itself, and in coping with the dread that persisted long afterward, these patients had learned to shut down the brain areas that transmit the visceral feelings and emotions that accompany and define terror. Yet in everyday life, those same brain areas are responsible for registering the entire range of emotions and sensations that form the foundation of our self-awareness, our sense of who we are. What we witnessed here was a tragic adaptation: In an effort to shut off terrifying sensations, they also deadened their capacity to feel fully alive.”
That is what I felt.
The months after our traumatic event with our son are ones that I honestly don’t remember clearly. I have pictures that help me to reminisce, but all those lovely baby months leading up to his first birthday are all a blur . . . and it makes me cry just typing that. I love the baby stage and knowing that our second-born was our last child, I feel tremendous sadness not being able to recall those ‘last’ baby moments that I will never have again as a mother.
Not only did I feel disconnected and in constant fight or flight mode, but I developed hypothyroidism, systemic candidiasis, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, and more. My body really did keep the score, and I was paying the price.
It took us years to push the fear out of our minds, so to sing the words, “I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God,” hasn’t always come easily. As my faith in the Lord steadily increased, and my fears were slowly diminishing, COVID-19 hit. I tried to push the worry out of my head and rely on God – for the most part, I did. But you better believe the devil tried his hardest to attack me and bring me to my knees, doubting God and His faithfulness. The devil knows our weaknesses and knows where to hit. He is successful in some moments of my life, like when I put my trust in my actions instead of trusting God with it all. I’ll be honest, even now, while I type this, I still feel a tinge of nervousness about any one of us in our family getting sick. However, my trust in the Lord far surpasses my fear of COVID-19 or any other sickness. In moments where the hint of fear or anxiety starts to set in, I remind myself that God is bigger than my fears. He loves us. He works all things out for His good (Rom. 8:28).
The Lord tells me not to be afraid because He is with me (Isa. 41:10) and comforts me (Ps. 23:4). The Lord is my light and salvation, so I have nothing to fear (Ps. 27:1). God leaves us with His peace, so we are not to be afraid or worried (Luke 14:27). The Lord tells me that I don’t need to fear because He is my God, and I have confident hope because of His strength, help and victory over sin and death. I cannot control if we get sick; I must trust God and His Word and know He will care for us, always. God is the one who carries me; I am to trust Him. He is a loving, caring, righteous, and fair Father who loves us, despite our past sins – like fear caused by unbelief. I trust Him with the little things and with the big things.
If I were to add anything to my book or change things (which there are many edits I would like to do as my walk with the Lord grows), I would add that my trust in the Lord is a daily fight. I must choose to trust God and give my fears and anxieties to Him and know that He is Sovereign, and I needn’t worry because I am saved in my Father’s arms. I also have learned that when I start to fear, my reaction is to then control. I hold tightly and try to control whatever I am fearful of. And then I am gently and lovingly reminded of our Lord and Savior. He reminds me that fear is not from the Lord and everything I have belongs to Him. My children are His. My husband is His. My home, my health, our health – all of it is in His hands . . . and I needn’t fear. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they (Matthew 6:26)?”
For me, trusting in God looks a lot different than I originally thought, and looking at things with an eternal perspective helped to shift my focus. Resting in God’s peace and His will can be challenging, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, through prayer and fellowship with others in authentic relationships, and reading the Bible daily, it all helps me to draw near to Him and trust that His will be done, not mine. Give us THIS day our daily bread. May YOUR will be done. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).”
We are all fighting invisible battles that others cannot see. We smile and tell people in passing that we are good when underneath it all, we are fighting our flesh. We are fighting real fights – whether it be invisible health struggles, mental illness, recovering from trauma, the list could go on. Some of you may be reading this and you might have experienced something similar. Or maybe you devastatingly had to bury a child. Or a parent. Or a friend. I don’t have any words that could make the hurt diminish and your pain is real, and your feelings are valid. I am so sorry. I am sorry that you experienced such deep pain and sadness. I am so sorry that you lost your loved one. Nothing that I – or anyone else – could say to make that better. I am deeply sorry.
The notes in a Bible study that I am working through state it better than I can (regarding John 11 when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead):
“Our walk through this fallen world inevitably brings trouble and grief. How blessed we are to know that we do not face our distress alone! Jesus came to Martha and Mary amid their pain. He does not merely acknowledge our grief from a safe, sterile distance. Jesus experienced the incredible loss and separation imposed by death and sin firsthand. The things that make us sad move Jesus’s heart. What deep hurt or painful loss are you facing today? How will you find strength by acknowledging Jesus’s genuine compassion for you? Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb, sharing His friends’ grief while anticipating a victory they could not fathom. Whatever you face today, Jesus knows, cares, and will accomplish more than you can conceive through His power. What might it look like for you to trust God with your deepest burden today?
Death continues to steal our loved ones. We long for hope as we attend funerals. Facing this world’s evil and our own sinfulness causes us great pain. God loves sinners so much that He does not leave us stuck in sin or paralyzed by death’s reverberating siren. Because of Jesus, we can weep, mourn, and rejoice simultaneously. God specializes in turning grief into joy, tears into triumph, despair into hope, and death into life. This world’s troubles awaken within us a desire for what only God can provide. The divine power that raised Lazarus and Jesus from the dead brings spiritual life to our sin-deadened hearts. Through faith in Christ, sinners are rescued from wasted life as well as death’s curse. Have you declared your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? If not, will you receive His gift of new life, shed your grave clothes, and follow Him? If you do believe, how does your life reflect appreciation, awe, and wonder over what Christ accomplished for you and all sinners? What struggle in your life needs Jesus’s transformational resurrection power to live according to His will and ways? Because of Jesus, sin and death do not win.”
Amen and amen.
Mercy in the Mess: How God Revealed His Character in My Mess and How You Can Find Him in Yours (Lauren Greci)
John’s Gospel, Bible Study Fellowship, Lesson 15 (page 220)