It’s taken me a very long time to get to a place where I can even begin to contemplate putting this post down on paper. I’ve composed this in my mind over and over during the last three years, and I’m still not sure it’s going to come out right.
Three years ago today, our first grandchild was born. We knew going in that she had a multitude of medical issues that threatened her survival, but her awesome, devoted, and loving parents were committed to giving her every possible chance to live. That, despite the “advice” of the “medical professionals”, that they had “other options” (read: abortion) to deal with the situation. When that was first broached as an “option”, Lexi’s parents made it abundantly clear that their daughter, who was still in utero, was God’s creation, that no one had the right to end her life, and that it was just not an “option”. The “option” was not discussed further.
Three years ago tomorrow, our first grandchild was ushered into the presence of Jesus. Lexi lived 13 hours, defying the doctor’s predictions that she would not make it to the NICU. She not only made it to the NICU, but fought for life for 13 hours. In the end, the diaphragmatic hernia on her right side prevented her right lung from developing, and she was just not able to get enough oxygen to live. The other medical issues she had certainly did not help matters.
Lexi’s life—nine months in utero—as well as those precious 13 hours, impacted literally hundreds of people. People saw how my two kids faced the most difficult situation a parent could face, how they faced it with a full and firm trust in the Lord, how they relied upon him to sustain them, how they depended on him completely. They prayed…oh, how they prayed, as did my wife and I, our other children, and our friends and our church family. Others who saw the Facebook page our daughter created for Lexi prayed with us too, including people we did not know.
Our theology informs how we live, how we “see” what happens to us and around us, it informs how we face difficulty, and how we rejoice in the good things of life. We believe that God is sovereign over his entire universe, that “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalm 24:1-2, emphasis added)
Lexi is his. He knew her before the foundation of time. She was his from the moment of conception, and she is his now in heaven. We understand that the Lord loaned her to her parents for a short time. In that short time, the Lord used her life for his own glory. People’s lives were touched. People saw my kids exercising their faith. People were pointed to Jesus. Pointing people to Jesus and glorifying God is why true believers exist. It’s all about him, and not at all about us. God’s glory is what matters. Some might disagree with those statements. But those would be people who just do not understand because they do not have a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Once the gospel of grace grips an individual’s heart, then and only then can one understand that God’s glory is paramount. His glory is what drives my preaching and teaching.
Certainly, none of us ever conceived such a thing could touch our lives. We’ve weathered many a storm, all the while resting on the Rock of our salvation, and this chain of events in our lives was no different. We rested in the Lord and in him alone. No one on earth can provide that kind of strength, courage, love, and encouragement. Only the Lord can meet such needs in times of trouble (Psalm 37:39). Our God does certainly reign and he sits on his holy throne! (Psalm 47:8)
The Lord has seen my family through so many trials—they are too numerous to count. Always he was faithful. Always he was gracious. Always he was merciful. Always he is faithful, he is gracious, and he is merciful. His steadfast love endures forever and forever. (Psalm 86:15)
Grief is a constant visitor. Grief invades our hearts and minds, threatening to take us down. All the while, God is at work in us, providing the strength, love and encouragement we need to get through it all. In the midst of the grief, his sanctifying work redeems our disappointment and anguish. Our attention is turned—by him—to his steadfast love, his compassion, and his grace in our lives.
What happened with Lexi did not “just happen”. There was no “coincidence”. What happened was not “bad luck” or “a fluke”. It was not something for which “Mother Nature” was responsible. No, none of those worldly explanations. What happened with Lexi was by divine decree. God determined from before the foundation of time what would happen with her.
Do we “hear” God’s decrees? No. Do we understand the “why” of them? No. Can we wrap our heads around what God’s design was? No. Does God owe us an explanation? Absolutely not. We walk by faith and not by sight—period. (2 Corinthians 5:7) Easy? Certainly not always. But because of what Jesus did on the cross our behalf, we are enabled by him to do just that—to walk by faith.
John Piper encourages true believers to allow pain to make us serious, vigilant, and humble. I know from experience that we all need to recognize that the Lord is sanctifying us—with the trials as well as with the joyful things of life. And we join with Paul, when he says,
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing
with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria