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Chris Carpenter
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Praise You In This Storm

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - The late Bob Slosser, a dear colleague and mentor of mine, once gave me a great bit of advice.  He said, “Write until it hurts.  Find a topic that is highly personal to you, turn it inside out, and make sure each letter is white hot.”  He often shared that the more personal your writing is the more people will relate to it.  I have no reason to doubt him as Bob was a friend to some of the greatest presidents, preachers, and kings who ever walked this earth.  His gift was his writing.  He wrote until it hurt.

I have problems.  Sure, everybody has them but until they are your own they don’t seem as vividly real.  For the most part I live a blessed life – I’m happily married, come from a good family, and have a decent job.  I am actively involved in a local church, pay my taxes on time, and faithfully purchase Girl Scout cookies each spring.  Yet the last three months have been the most tumultuous and difficult days of my life.

Before I share with you what I have been living through let me unequivocally state that many people are faced with challenges in life that are far greater than mine.  You may have walked a road far more treacherous and harrowing than I ever will.  Believe me, I have friends who upon hearing my tale of woe will scoff and say, “Child’s play!”  But everyone handles the challenges of life differently – some for the better, some worse.

My story begins in March 2007, as I was driving through Florida with a good friend.  We were heading south for several days of spring training baseball games together, a sort of brotherhood bonding experience.  As the sun was setting, my cell phone started to ring.  I glanced down to find the familiar digits of my home phone number lighting up the screen.  Instantly thinking something was wrong I picked up the phone.  It was my wife.

“Is everything alright,” I blurted before she had a chance to say anything.

“Everything is wonderful,” she replied exuberantly.  “I just wanted to tell you that I went to the doctor today and she confirmed it.  We are pregnant!”

“Fantastic!” I shouted back into the phone.

I can’t tell you how happy I was.  For nearly ten years we had been trying to conceive without any success.  While no one had told us we couldn’t, my wife and I had come to the conclusion that perhaps we were not meant to have children.  Her news seemed too good to be true.

Two weeks later, we waited with great anticipation for our doctor to enter the room for our first ultrasound.  My wife and I were giddy with the possibilities.  Was it a boy or a girl?  We decided it didn’t matter just as long as the baby was healthy.  What theme would we have for the nursery?  It all depended on the baby’s gender.  What would we name this bundle from above?  The possibilities were endless.

Thirty minutes later, we left the doctor’s office a bit confused but still optimistic.  Our doctor was a bit concerned about our baby’s development but asked us to come back the following week for another ultrasound.

In the ensuing days, we tried to keep ourselves calm by placing our petition on every church prayer chain we could think of.  We buried ourselves in our work to take our minds off our impending date with destiny.  Finally, the day of our second ultrasound arrived.

Bad news.  Our doctor officially determined what she had feared the week before – we had lost the baby.  My wife and I sat bewildered and misty eyed as our doctor scheduled her for a procedure to remove the pregnancy tissue.

We eventually composed ourselves in the parking lot and thanked God for letting us be pregnant in the first place.  “After all,” my wife countered, “I feel blessed in knowing that we could even get pregnant.  We didn’t think it was possible and now we know it is.”

The procedure to remove the pregnancy tissue went as planned.  The doctor remarked to me in the waiting room that she had “gotten it all” and that this “was one of the smoothest” procedures she had ever performed.  Wow, was she wrong.

Two days later, my wife began hemorrhaging and felt such excruciating pain that she was doubled up on the floor in the shape of a pretzel.  I rushed her to the hospital where we spent the night, my wife heavily sedated with pain killers, I heavily entrenched myself in deep thought.

“Lord, why are you doing this to us?” I pleaded silently.  “Why are you teasing us with this pregnancy only to yank it away?”

I did not receive an answer.

The following week, my wife went for a follow-up visit.  The news was not good.  A great deal of pregnancy tissue remained.  She would need to have a second procedure.  Visions of my pretzled wife lying on the floor in agony quickly resonated in my mind.  How could God possibly be putting us through this again?

The second procedure went more smoothly and believe it or not my wife was given a clean bill of health five long weeks after our ordeal began.  Praise the Lord; we were free to start living our normal lives again!

But God had other plans for us.  The very next day, just 36 hours after being medically cleared, we received a distressing phone call from my wife’s brother.  My father-in-law had suffered a massive stroke and might not make it through the night.

We were dumbfounded.  My father-in-law had just left us a phone message earlier that day, cracking jokes about the bad weather we were having in Virginia.  Now, just a few hours later he was teetering on the edge of life and death. 

We began packing for an unexpected trip to Massachusetts.

My brother-in-law prepared us for the worse.  “I don’t mean to sound morbid but you will probably want to bring some funeral clothes.”

We arrived a day later to find my wife’s father, a champion of industry, a man who over the years had become a second father to me, hooked to a myriad of machines including a life support respirator.  The news was grim.  He was completely paralyzed on his right side, couldn’t speak, and was in a coma.  The treating physicians gave him little chance of survival.

Yet, as a family, we dug our heels in and prayed.  Despite my growing concern that God had turned his back on our family, my mother-in-law clung to her steadfast belief in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Ever so slowly, we began to see this verse click into action.  One day my father-in-law opened his eyes.  The next day he began to squeeze people’s hands.  A week after being stricken, doctors successfully removed him from the life support respirator.  Little by little, he began to make progress.  Today, he is in a rehabilitation hospital re-learning to do things that so many of us take for granted like walking, talking, and feeding one’s self.

Call it the proverbial “icing on the cake” but my wife severely cut her leg and required stitches in a July 4th mishap.  As we wallowed in our emotions while waiting for the emergency room doctor to treat her, I kept muttering to anyone who would listen, “What else can go wrong?  What else can happen to us?”

The truth of the matter is that despite all the frustration that comes with misfortune God is right there beside us through it all.  In our weaknesses, Jesus Christ is made strong.  In our sorrows, He is our comfort.

Just as my mother-in-law has found comfort in Romans 8:28, I have derived great strength from a passage in I Peter.  In chapter one, verses six and seven, Peter writes, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

God promises when we go through difficulties, He will be with us.  If we genuinely belong to Christ, even our trials will bring Him praise.  As we experience and remember very sensitive conflicts in our own lives, we can share in another’s affliction with true understanding.  It is not so much what happens to us that causes us to rejoice, but that through each difficulty in life we have learned to trust in Jesus.*

In my human frailty it is so easy to question how God could let such heartache beset my family.  Yet as I take a step back and try to make sense of it all, I have discovered that in my weakness I cannot possibly get through a day without Him at my side.  Jesus Christ is my closest ally and confidant.

For those of you battling mightily through heartache, Jesus says to come to Him.  The rest He gives us is complete as He carries the heavy load for us.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

-- Matthew 11:29


* Portions contained within this article from the Transformer Study Bible.

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