Who Knows? (Psalm 139:15-16)
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. —Psalm 139:15-16
I have had the joy and privilege of working with children and families for more than 20 years in three different countries. In late 2017, I wrote on this very blog about how God works through our sufferings, even when it’s hard. But in January 2018, a child asked me a question about suffering that I never wanted to answer.
It was a hot day outside a hospital in Sydney, Australia. Our family had traveled to Australia as part of our home assignment. During our visit, my third child, Benjamin, had suffered from an unexplained illness for a few weeks. This had delayed our return to the US and then to our home in Costa Rica where we were serving as missionaries.
Earlier that week, my wife and I sat in a conference room in the pediatric intensive care unit and had received the devastating news that our three-year-old son had cancer. As the week progressed, we learned how aggressive the cancer was, and the difficult and treacherous road ahead as Benjamin started treatment.
With all of that swirling around my head, I was walking my other three children to the hospital.
The silence was interrupted by a question from my eldest son, Sam, “Daddy, is Benny going to die?”
I was paralyzed for a moment—What should I say? What could I say?
My 7 year-old son, with his 5 year-old sister listening (along with their 7 month-old little sister!), had just put his finger on the stakes. They knew cancer was serious. They knew their brother was in danger. They wanted to know what would happen.
In that moment of paralysis, the Spirit gave me the verses that make up this week’s Fighter Verse. I looked into my son’s eyes, my voice cracking, and said through tears, “We don’t know, Sammy. But what we do know is that God has numbered his days before Benny was even born and we can trust Him.”
Through the dark valleys of treatment that followed, that truth sustained our family. The God who knew Benjamin before he was born, knew exactly how many days he would live. And as we saw glimmers of hope that the treatment was working, that truth continued to be our north star. Our confidence was not in great doctors, effective medicine, or even a brave three-year-old little boy. Our confidence was in the goodness of the God of the universe who not only had numbered Benjamin’s days, He numbered the days of His one and only Son to defeat sin and offer us new life.
In His kindness, the Lord chose to heal Benjamin. The disease and treatment has left a lasting mark on all six members of our family. And even though monitoring and recovery is ongoing, we are so thankful that our sick little three-year-old is a strong little four-year-old who will take every opportunity to point out that his fifth birthday is just around the corner (July 21, in case you were wondering)!
One result of a little boy walking so close to death’s door, and made conscious of the prayers of God’s people and God’s healing hand in his life, is that we can no longer use the phrase “who knows?” to express things we don’t understand. No matter where he is, or what he’s doing at the time, Benji is quick to remind us that “God knows!” whenever we ask that rhetorical question!
As you memorize and pray over these verses, I pray that God plants them deep in your soul. That Benji’s voice will ring in your ears as you encourage those walking through dark valleys of suffering.
Those who trust God don’t have a promise of an easy life. When we encounter a life-threatening illness, we have no guarantee of healing. But we do face all of life’s challenges knowing that the One who knew us before we were born is the One who will sustain us for all the days He has planned. No more, no less.
How does the truth that God has planned all your days encourage you today?
Who in your life might you encourage with this truth today? How?
How could this truth shape your prayers and how you love your family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors?