The chairs are all taken by adults, so I crouch in the corner of my brother’s hospital room. Mom stands at the foot of his bed, her face wet with her own pain. The nurse behind a paper mask shoves a plastic tube several feet long through a hole in my brother’s throat. His face contorts in agony. They’ve strapped his arms to the metal rails along the bed, but even with restraints it takes several nurses to hold him down.
When nobody’s watching, I back out of the room and roam the hospital floors.
I discover a door that says CHAPEL. The room inside looks like a miniature sanctuary with several symbols stretching across one wall. A cross. A crucifix. The Star of David. Plus a few others I don’t recognize. It’s a smorgasbord of religion.
Of all the symbols the crucifix draws my attention the most. I’ve never seen one so close. The crosses at my church are bare, but this one shows Jesus in 3-D. I touch the nails that perforate Jesus’s hands and feet, and I think about the needles and tubes puncturing my brother’s body.
Pierced. His body broken. His blood spilled.
The hospital chapel becomes my secret hiding place. Whenever I need refuge from beeping machines and whispering adults, I come here to get away. Sometimes I kneel and pray the way I see grown-ups pray at church. I plead for God to end my brother’s suffering: Please, God, make his pain stop. Make him better or take him home.
But God doesn’t answer either of these prayers. My brother never makes it to heaven. But he never gets better either. Instead, he’s sentenced for life, imprisoned in a body that will never work right again.
Months later my brother comes home from the hospital. The doctors say there’s no hope of my brother ever walking again. But we don’t give up. My parents visit new doctors’ offices in search of a cure. They call for prayer meetings at church and raise their hands to heaven for a miracle.
Then one day I watch my dad lift his 20-year-old son out of his wheelchair. He places his firstborn in the cab of his truck, then folds the wheelchair and sets it in the back. Dad drives my brother to a Billy Graham Crusade several hours away.
In the morning an eerie hush stifles the air. No one speaks. No one looks at each other. We shuffle to our cereal bowls, feeling the weight of this final blow. No surgery, no prayer meeting, and no super-evangelist can restore this brokenness.
Faith is crucified and buried. Hope dies. And a permanent wheelchair ramp is built to our front door.
My parents shutter the doors of the small church they lead while our lives take on a lifelessness akin to my brother’s dead legs. The prison of paralysis spreads to the heart. If we’re supposed to walk by faith, we’d settle just for walking.
Today, I can’t tell you how life-changing the Bible is — no matter how true that truth is — without also sharing my struggle to believe everything the Bible says. That God is good. That He cares about our tears. That we can trust Him with our bodies and our lives.
I’ve especially struggled with verses like Jeremiah 29:11 that talk about God’s plans to prosper us and not to harm us.
Tell that to my brother.
Tell that to the mom with stage 4 breast cancer.
Tell that to the child who’s just lost a mom or dad or both.
Anyone who’s lived long enough knows that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. But God isn’t a slot machine, where we put in a quarter, pull the lever, and expect the answer of our choice.
It’s easy to trust God when life is rolling pretty good. But what about when the storms hit? And I mean the big storms — the kind that cause so much devastation you know your life will never be the same again.
How do we trust God then?
Deeper Waters is a story that confronts these questions head on.
But you won’t find any churchy clichés or perky platitudes. Just an honest telling of a hard journey — hard in the way one wrestles with reconciling their theology with their reality.
For years too long I believed a broken body broke my family. I couldn’t fathom how a broken body could be used to restore wholeness and peace. Yet that’s exactly what happened when heaven opened and sent Light into the world, separating time between BC and AD.
Thirty years upon this earth, Jesus built with carpenter’s hands and helped with younger siblings. This the before. Then the unthinkable.
Soldiers surrounded Him and stretched out His arms. They nailed His hands and feet to splintered crossbeams while onlookers stood nearby, hurling insults and mocking His name.
Jesus was crucified and buried. Hope died. But then hope came back to life.
With a broken body God restored humanity’s brokenness. Now the scarred hands of the One and Only hold the one and only promise of wholeness.
When the deep waters of suffering threaten to take the very breath right out of us, the deeper waters of life with God speak hope into the impossible.
Today Denise is giving away 5 copies of Deeper Waters on Instagram!
Learn more about the giveaway here!
This so touched me this morning. Thank you for the blessing and the lesson. This is my very favorite verse of all time. I lost my husband in a tragic accident many years ago. And, as a young widow and a mother of two young girls, My faith, my church family, and Jeremiah 29:11, were the only things that got me through it.
If not through the grace of God, the love of my husbands parents who brought me to know Jesus, as my personal Lord and Savior, I would have been right beside him. Thrown in towel, and given up on life. But one day, I was sitting in church and someone had put that verse on my Bible when I wasn’t looking, while it was open and it changed my life forever. Bless you for blessing others!
You have such a beautiful spirit. Thank you so much for sharing your insights into our plight of suffering.
It moved my heart to hear that you were attracted to the crucifix in the chapel. Denise, it seems that the Holy Spirit was calling you to enter more fully into the passion of Christ. As Catholics we practice a devotion known as the Stations of the Cross. This is a beautiful prayer in which we allow ourselves to walk with Christ every step of the way to His crucifixion and death. This is His greatest act of obedience and love to the Father. We have so much to learn about our own suffering and ministering to others in their’s by accompanying Him to Golgotha. We also may offer Christ our love and compassion as He hangs from the cross. Our love and compassion for our crucified Lord superceeds the limitations of time. Seek the fullness of truth to be found in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therein you will be offered the Eucharist, the Pearl of great price.