A Child of Great Promise

Journal Entry: After two miscarriages, Liz and I quietly began to accept the prospect of being childless. Then, in 1974, we received the good news that we were with child again. A few weeks passed, and it appeared to be a good, solid pregnancy. Later, we learned we were to have a son. The excitement, the joy, and the elation were beyond description.

Jeff was born in 1975. Of course, he was beautiful and very bright. As he grew, many told us he could be a model. “You should take him to an agency. They’re always looking for beautiful children.” We nodded a polite thank you and smiled. Many marveled at his vocabulary, understanding of complex concepts, and ability to express himself well beyond his years. Truly, he was our child of great promise.

After renewing our commitment to Jesus Christ and growing spiritually, we came to believe he was indeed a gift from God. After another miscarriage, the constant ticking of our biological clocks made it very clear Jeff was to be our only child. We readily accepted that, and we settled into the good life.

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But when Jeff was five, he contracted an extreme case of chicken pox. When his condition worsened, we took him to a nearby hospital. The Emergency Room doctors told us Jeff’s diagnosis was Reye’s Syndrome.

I did not, could not understand why our son was so sick. We attended church, read the Bible, prayed, and always tried to do the right thing.

So, how could God allow this to happen? After He had given us our son of great promise, how could God permit Reye’s to take our precious five-year-old from us?

These questions were testing my faith to the bottom of my soul. Jeff’s illness was like a bad dream, a nightmare from which I would eventually awaken and find everything just as it was before. But this was no dream. The wide-awake, grim reality hit me square between the eyes: he could die.

Jeff’s physicians offered us little hope and transferred him to Children’s Hospital for treatment. Liz accompanied him in the ambulance, and I followed them later by car. When I arrived at the hospital, nurses and doctors attended to him, checked his vital signs, and started IV fluids. His lifeless, little body lay motionless in the hospital bed. It did not look promising.

His doctor told us that the next few days would determine if the virus had attacked his liver and brain beyond recovery. Jeff’s liver—one of the first major organs affected in Reye’s—was already enlarged. For now, we could only hope and pray.

Liz and I took shifts. She stayed with Jeff during the day, and I stayed with him during the night.

It was a hellish time, not knowing what each day and night would bring. I felt the weight of despair pressing on me and crushing my hopes for a good life, with the three of us enjoying God’s blessings together.

I received the latest report from Liz when I assumed the night shift, and then she drove home for some sleep. While I sat by Jeff’s side throughout the night, I could only pray and hold his little hand in mine. Tears trickled down the side of his face and mine. I gently wiped them, but he was unresponsive, never moving when I touched his face or held his hand. I felt his life was slipping away, and I was powerless to stop it.

Liz arrived early the next morning to get the latest doctor’s report, which was not good news.

“His condition is stable for now, but in a day or two, we’ll know one way or the other,” his doctors said.

I hugged her and drove home for some much-needed sleep.

This first day and night were grueling, and sleep did not come easy. I prayed, “Lord, You can heal him if it is Your will. Show me what to do, and I will do it for You; just heal him. After all, wasn’t he our child of great promise? Wasn’t he a gift from You? How could You allow this to happen?” I was exhausted, confused, and didn’t understand why God seemed so distant.

I finally fell asleep.

Liz’s report wasn’t encouraging when I arrived for the second night. Jeff was still unresponsive, yet stable. The chickenpox had spread to his mouth and throat. We hugged and cried, and she left for some much-needed sleep. I was helpless and now, without much hope.

Where are You, God? I feel so alone.

The minutes ticked by as if they were hours. All I could do was hold Jeff’s little hand, wipe the trickle of tears, tell God how He could fix this, and wonder why He did not listen to me.

The morning finally came, and Liz relieved me. Then, I went home to get some sleep. But sleep eluded me. I was more desperate.

“God, You have to fix this,” I told God. I reminded Him. “You gave us this child; now, he is being taken away from us.” I pleaded, “Tell me why. I don’t understand. I don’t get it.”

I bargained with God. If You heal him, I’ll do this or that, but God remained silent. Sleep finally came, but it was fitful and restless.

The report from Liz on the third night was the same. Jeff’s condition remained stable but guarded. I did not think I could face another night with endless hours of helplessness and hopelessness.

God, are You there?

The next morning, Liz relieved me. We hugged and cried. This ordeal was taking its toll: we both were exhausted and frightened.

What is going to happen to Jeff? I drove home, thinking we were going to lose him.

I could not sleep. I was at the end of my rope; all seemed lost. I had nowhere to turn. No one could fix this, not me, Liz, or the doctors—we were all helpless.

I fell to my knees, lifted my arms to heaven, and cried out to God. “Uncle! Uncle, I give! I yield. Your will be done, not mine. Whatever Your will is, Lord, help us to endure.”

I fell into a deep sleep.

I arrived for my night shift and was completely surprised to see Jeff sitting in bed and talking like a magpie. Liz met me with hugs and kisses and explained that earlier in the day, she was sitting with him, as usual, and he suddenly sat up in bed and announced he was hungry. After examining him, the doctors pronounced him on the road to recovery. The enlarged liver was now normal-sized, and the pox in his mouth and throat was healed enough so he could eat. We brought him home the following day.

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Scoffers said Jeff didn’t really have Reye’s. Others claimed it was a miracle. I take more of a pragmatic view. God was ready to work when I got out of His way and yielded to His will.

We still believe Jeff is our child of great promise, and through this ordeal, we’ve learned a valuable lesson: trusting God is the most essential thing in life, and everything else is a distant second.

Jonah took three days and nights in the belly of the whale before he yielded to God’s sovereignty. I took three days and nights as well. Through those dark days and scary nights, I learned a vital truth: whatever your trial, you can count it all joy when you reach the other side and look back, for you will see that the Lord was with you during it all—whether you felt His presence or not. He will lead you out of your trial on His schedule. Pray you learn the lesson He is trying to teach you.

Unfortunately, some of us are very slow learners.