Holly screamed as loud as her three year old little voice could muster. The team of nurses and doctors could not hold her still. You see, even though Down’s Syndrome developmentally delayed her socially and intellectually, God gave her an extra measure of strength. In my estimation, He gives us all special gifts to make up for anything we may lack (we get the adventure of finding what they are).
The doctor finally called to his nurse: “Get her parents in here now!” Jim and Tammy rushed into the operating room, already covered in their daughter’s blood, so they could help do what had to be done. Jim held his baby girl’s head. Time seemed to stand still, a moment frozen in time, as Holly’s eyes locked with his. With absolute terror in her face and without using a word, Holly tore a gaping hole in the center of Jim’s heart. “She looked at me like ‘Daddy, how could you do this to me? You are the one who’s supposed to love me, protect me, and never, ever, hurt me’.” Jim’s heart sank as he choked back tears with no choice but to restrain her while surgeons reattached her little finger.
An hour earlier, while playing with her big brother, Holly had inadvertently stuck her fingers behind the hinge of an end table’s open door. Her brother accidentally fell into the door, slamming it shut and severing poor Holly’s finger. Surgeons struggled to help Holly. Missing and maimed fingers could further delay her already stunted kinesthetic development and dexterity. But Holly fought them like they were the devil himself. All she knew was she was in pain, these people in white coats were hurting her, and now her Daddy was helping them.
Have you ever looked for God and he was nowhere to be found? Have you ever felt that your heavenly Father was the one that was holding you down and allowing you to be tortured? Have you ever screamed out in the darkness of the night and no one answered?
I wonder, out of all the wounds we have encountered throughout our life… from childhood - abandonment, rejection, abuse, disappointment, neglect and broken promises… to adulthood - death, divorce, shame, failed dreams, sin and loss… how many times have we realized the reality of what was really happening? How many times have we mistaken our saviors for villains? I wonder how many times we actually get it… that in the bigger scheme of things, no matter what the tragedy, Satan meant it for bad, but God meant it for good.
What does all of this even mean?
First, it means that things are not what they seem. There is a whole lot more going on here than meets the eye. After tornadoes rip an infant from the arms of a desperate mother… When a dear friend loses a four year battle with cancer… When a battered woman is struggling for life on a respirator at an E.R… What are our true thoughts and emotions? What is the reality which grips our soul? And perhaps more importantly, what is the conclusion we come to about God and his ability to take care of us?
Isn't this the very lesson of the Emmaus Road ? You recall the story-two followers of Christ are headed out of town after the Crucifixion, as dejected as two people can be, with every reason in their minds to be so and more. Their hopes have been shattered. They staked it all on the Nazarene, and now he's dead. As they slump back toward their homes, Jesus sort of sneaks up alongside, very much alive but they do not realize it is Him. How many times do we fail to see Jesus for who he is? How many times do we mistake him as a nobody or even the enemy?
Secondly, it means we live in two worlds-or better, in one world with two parts. There is one part that we can see and one part that we cannot. We are urged, for our own welfare, to act as though the unseen world (the rest of reality) is, in fact, weightier and more real and more dangerous than the part of reality we can see. The lesson from the story of the Emmaus Road -the lesson the whole Bible is trying to get across-begins with this simple truth: There is more going on here than meets the eye. Far more!
The true battle is that we cannot lose heart.
Even when it seems our heavenly Father has abandoned us in our times of pain, or even worse, that God is the very one that has done the betraying, we must raise our vision upward past the clouds of darkness to see the bigger picture. This picture is that God means it for good, the greatest good for us. Even though it may be the greatest pain of our life, God has a plan and a way for it to turn into the greatest victory we’ve ever experienced.
Paul, the apostle, said to the church at Rome : “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Later to the church at Ephesus : “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” - 2 Cor. 4:16-18
So, how, Paul-how? How do we not lose heart?
He says: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” - 2 Cor. 4:18
Paul was seeing with the eyes of the heart. Later in life, writing from prison to some friends he was deeply concerned about, Paul said, "I pray . . . that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened" - Eph. 1:18.
No matter what happens to you in this life, we must recognize the fundamental truth and never forget… Satan means it for bad, but God means it for good. Say it over and over and over. Teach it to your children. Write it in your house and on your mirrors. GOD MEANS IT FOR GOOD! There is purpose for our pain and suffering. Not one tear is shed in vain. Psalm 56: 8 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Every pain we have serves a purpose. When we realize this, we are able to use even the greatest tragedy for growth. In each and every heart ache God gives us an opportunity to achieve greatness. Pain is a valuable asset. Pain is a terrible thing to waste.
Joseph, (the coat of many colors guy), reminded his brothers of this fact. He reassures them in Genesis 50:15-20 that despite his brothers vile betrayal- throwing him in a pit, selling him into slavery, and being locked away in a dungeon, he still knew in depths of his soul that God would (and did) direct his steps for good. An entire nation was saved and the lineage of the Messiah was secured as a result.
“15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Little Holly knows… In her pure and innocent heart that Jesus loves her very, very much. She knows in a very matter-of-fact way that what we see as a life-robbing handicap is actually an eternal life-giving blessing. By the way, her uncle Keith thinks so too. I believe Satan would have us feel bad for Holly and feel that God has been cruel to her and her family. But God… our wonderful Father… our Papa… has set her apart with a bright and beautifully innocent soul. He has meant it for good. Holly has a straight ticket into Heaven for sure… I’m actually envious.
Purposefully in Jesus,