Today is Disability Awareness Sunday in the Christian Reformed Church in which Ed and I grew up, met and married. I thought it might be good to repost this blog because we are not always healed of our illnesses or disabilities just because we pray for such. Often, it’s in learning to accept the difficulties that we find our healing peace.
Early one morning, before heading to another of Ed’s appts, I stood on the deck with the sun on my face, gazing at the garden beyond this big beautiful tree that, 40-some years ago, was about 8-10 feet tall at most. Even Emily said when visiting that she couldn’t get over how big it had gotten. Hearing the drone of a plane engine in the bright blue sky overhead, until its sound slowly faded on its journey to far-away places … reminded me of my childhood, laying on the grass, staring at the clouds and listening to plane engines overhead, without a care in the world, especially not about bugs and ticks in the grass, deciding what the huge puffy clouds looked like in comparison to my sister’s thoughts… and sometimes, what I’d give for more days like that childhood fun… quiet, unperturbed, no worries or cares, and no fears of an unknown future…
As in the past, we again spent virtually every weekday going to medical appointments after Ed was hospitalized twice in July of 2022… Though Ed was utterly exhausted, we were thankful he was still here with us, as we came close to losing him at least half a dozen times until he passed away earlier this year in January… thankful for my prior hospital medical transcription job where my boss allowed me to work 3am to 11am so I could take care of Ed and his appointments in the afternoons over so many years in the past… thankful for the elderly friend who wanted to visit Ed back then and who, on hearing I was sorry to tell him “no” for how exhausted Ed was from his extensive appt calendar, graciously apologized and said he’d leave us alone till Ed felt better again.
But for all who cared enough to ask how Ed was doing, though I’d say “ok” and “stable”, it’s really hard to explain. We were so grateful for your caring. Ed improved somewhat after those two hospitalizations in July. But life was a daily struggle for him, for anyone with worsening severe congestive heart failure and multiple other health issues, knowing CHF has no cure. He had a few drug changes, eliminating some nasty side effects while replacement meds brought new issues. For all those times I wanted to do things for him, Ed often replied, “Let me do this as long as I can before the day comes when I can’t.”
It’s also remembering to focus on God being here with us, even in the midst of what seemed like never-ending difficulties in health or other challenges, wondering if our prayers were heard, while also knowing He does work all things for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28) … even when we feel so alone… because He has said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). And sometimes I need a little reminder when life becomes overwhelming…
I wrote the following article in 2016, accepted for publication in the Christian Reformed Church Disability Network Newsletter online in January 2017.
Why do we have to deal with suffering? Why aren’t we miraculously healed when we pray for healing? Didn’t Jesus say, “Ask anything in my name and it shall be given you”? So, are we not healed due to a lack of faith or the right prayers?
What Jesus did say was: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) He also said “… and I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
John later wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (I John 5:14) And therein lies the key – asking in the context of God’s will. But that begs the question… what is God’s will?
My husband, Ed, and I traveled a long road with his disabilities. We were told to pray and fast for healing, and trust that he will be healed. It sounds so easy, but healing did not come. We were told it was our fault that he had not been healed of his blindness because we did not pray right. Although I would never want to destroy a prayer of hope, the Bible does not teach that we can manipulate God into doing what we want just by saying the right words or having “enough” faith.
With his long-term illnesses, disabilities, and unrelenting pain and dizziness, my husband and I have wondered what’s wrong with us that healing had passed him by. Intimations by well-meaning friends that healing is simply for the asking has devastating effects, including guilt. While the “well” person can walk away emotionally and physically intact, how do we handle the seemingly raw deal we’ve been dealt?
Personally, I think it takes a deeper faith to move forward without obvious answers and healing. Just maybe there really is a purpose in our suffering. As we read in James, we are to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4). For “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” (vs.12) Once upon a time I did not understand that concept and reacted poorly to adversity. Yet, even in that, I am not alone.
Paralyzed from the neck down after a shallow dive not long after graduating from high school, Joni Eareckson Tada initially reacted negatively. She expected answers to prayers for miraculous healing. But healing never came. Disappointed, discouraged and despairing, she finally came to terms with accepting her disability. She has seen God work by changing her heart instead, and she praises God for the blessing her ministry has been in transforming the lives of others.
Despite his multitudinous losses of family and personal property, Job did not sin in his quest for answers. Learning of his losses, he worshipped God saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b) He did not blame or curse God. But, in questioning God, and hearing the Almighty’s queries of him, Job acknowledged an understanding of where he fit in the overall scheme of life. . . and that God was in control… and God eventually blessed him even more than before. I am impressed with Job’s humility as he learned to fully trust our loving, all-knowing and powerful God.
In unbelievable circumstances that I can’t comprehend, others have struggled to regain normalcy after devastating losses, knowing their life will never be the same. I’m sure they wish their life stories were different. But God knows why life has its rough roads. He knows our story from start to finish. (Psalm 139:13-16) He hears our cries and pleadings. And, though God seems silent at times, I’m reassured by Romans 8:28, “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.”
As God drew us into a closer relationship with Him on a path we didn’t always like, Ed and I knew that He would never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b) After years of Ed’s unrelenting health issues and disabilities, we came to understand the redemptive quality which pain and difficulty can bring to our lives. As Philip Yancey put it so well, “We’re concerned with how things turn out; God is more concerned with how we turn out.” (“The Question That Never Goes Away – Why?”, p.105) Therein lie the keys to accepting and understanding life’s difficult disabilities.
When there are no answers to pleas for healing, may you, too, feel the Lord’s loving arms gently holding you with a comfort and peace only He can give. May you feel His strength enable you to finish well the path He’s allowed you to walk. And, may you know His answer will yet be coming in His time…though maybe not until you stand face to face with Him. And may we each be found worthy at the end of our journey.
Linda A. Roorda
Sometimes we have no healing for pain
And answers to prayers seem elusive at best
But in the silence the Lord whispers soft…
I am still here; You are not alone.
When the way gets rough, I will guide your steps
When the path is steep, your hand I will hold
When the night is long, at your side I’ll be
When you can’t go on, I will carry you.
Though sometimes My will is not what you want
Plans I have made take time to work out
Wending their way through trials you face
With meaning found as your heart seeks mine.
There’s much I long to share from My word
Coming together with trust placed in Me
Finding comfort in My arms of peace
When to Me you give control of your path.
Even though Faith is bright hope unseen
It covers your soul, a protective shield
And holds you tight when stormy winds blow
To persevere when all else seems lost.
For though sometimes answers seem fleeting
Your heart is held still gently secure
That you may know My mercy and grace
Hold your best interests in loving scarred hands.
Linda Roorda writes from her home in Spencer.