I prayed for kids for years.
Now I finally have them, and one has a chronic disease. And I’m pissed about it.
It all began about five years ago, when I started praying. For years, just before collapsing into bed, I’d lay on the floor of our bedroom and pray. I’d always ask God for the same thing: a child.
Two years later, I was in the same position. But this time, laying on the soft, rainbow-colored floor mats of our children’s’ playroom, I was begging God not to take away the child he’d given us. I had been cleaning to distract myself, organizing blocks and books and stuffed animals. When I reached under the play kitchen and found my daughter’s favorite doll, I collapsed into a puddle of a person. I started praying.
My wife gave birth to twins on July 3rd, 2015—a boy and a girl. We’d struggled to get pregnant. Out of options and ideas, we turned to God. We prayed - individually, together, with trusted friends, with strangers. We prayed and prayed. And we waited and waited. Finally, God heard that prayer and answered us with a double helping. We were stunned. Scared. Overwhelmed. Humbled. Most of all, we felt heard.
Although six-weeks premature, by their second birthday both twins were progressing, growing, and hitting their developmental marks. We seemed to have finally emerged from the stage of perpetual fear. And then, in mid-November 2017, my two-year-old daughter got sick. Really sick. She was throwing up. Extremely lethargic. Drinking water nonstop and producing heavier and heavier diapers. On a Friday morning, we called the pediatrician only to find out we’d have to wait until Monday to get in a visit. “The stomach bug is going around,” the doctor said. Without any other options, we spent a miserable weekend with a sick child on the couch while balancing two other very active (and healthy) siblings.
Monday morning finally came. My wife loaded our ragdoll of a daughter into her car seat. The pediatrician took her vitals and immediately sent her to the local hospital. The local hospital took her vitals and immediately sent her to the university hospital. “Do not go home,” they said. “Straight to the hospital. No stops whatsoever.”
My wife called me in a panic. I reassured her. And then I promptly hung up the phone and fell apart.
When my daughter arrived at the hospital, her blood glucose level was over 700 mg/dL. A healthy level is between 80-120 mg/dL. Her “stomach bug” symptoms were actually something called Diabetic Ketoacidosis. In short, her blood was becoming acidic, she was dangerously dehydrated, and her body was beginning to shut down. On the spot, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. And that night, all of our lives changed forever.
We spent the next four days in a crash course we hadn’t signed up for. In between fitful nights of sleep, terrifying blood sugar spikes, and injection after injection, we had to learn a new normal. Like how to read food labels, how to calculate a carbohydrate load, how to use an insulin-to-carb ratio, how to give an injection, when to give an injection. It was easily the highest stress environment I’ve ever encountered. And underlying it all was a worry our daughter wouldn’t make it. Through gritted teeth, through tear-stained cheeks, through sleepless nights, we prayed. It was all we could do. And God heard us, again.
After four days in the hospital, we were discharged. It was late-afternoon, Thanksgiving Day. The significance of that wasn’t lost on me. I had so much to be thankful for—my daughter was still alive, our community had rallied around us, and we’d come out the other side. And yet, beneath my gratitude, was some serious piss. Raising a child with a lifelong illness was not in my plans. This was our miracle baby, the one we’d prayed for, given to us by God himself. What the hell did diabetes have to do with it?
Let me pause to say, I know there are children facing much more serious complications than diabetes. The world is broken, children suffer, and sometimes even die. Heartbreaking isn’t a strong enough word for it. But diabetes is what I know. It’s my daughter’s story, and so now it’s my story. And when she looks up at me, with her big, beautiful eyes and says, “Daddy, I don’t want a shot today,” I die a little bit inside. I don’t want it either, baby. I never wanted it.
This November will mark the one year anniversary of diabetes entering our lives. We’re adjusting to a new normal. My wife and I are very comfortable with needles now. We Google the carb content of the food at our favorite restaurants. We explain her situation every time she gets dropped off with a new babysitter or preschool teacher.
Although it’s been a year, there won’t be a pretty bow tied on this story—we aren’t “healed” or “accepting” or “at peace.” Diabetes sucks. That was true last November, and it’s still true. But in the past year, I have learned something I never anticipated: how to feel more than one thing at a time. My wife describes it best when she says it’s like living in parallel universes. In the past twelve months, I’ve learned to be pissed and grateful, to be both victim and victor, and to be simultaneously weak and strong.
But today, I want you to understand one vastly important truth: it’s okay to feel.
Most historians believe Job, found near the middle of the Bible, was actually the first book to be written down. And what is Job about? Suffering. Job was living the dream - healthy, wealthy, a large family. He was devoted to God, the original #blessed. And in the span of a few hours, it was all taken from him. His vast herds of livestock were slaughtered by enemies, his ten children were killed in a freak accident, and Job was afflicted with painful boils on his skin. Overnight, he went from revered to reviled.
Job complains to God that he doesn’t deserve this suffering. He cries out in pain, in anguish, in confusion. He demands that God answer him, to give an account as to why this happened. Job’s friends show up, explaining away his sorrow by assuring him that (a) God is righteous, (b) Job is not righteous, so therefore (c) he must have somehow earned this suffering. The friends attempt to defend God by dragging Job’s name through the mud. They ping-pong back and forth like this for 37 chapters, with ever increasing degrees of passive-aggressive sass and attitude.
In chapter 38, God shows up to the party. But He doesn’t address Job’s questions. Instead, He asks Job where he was when He created the world; Or if Job knows where He keeps his storehouses of rain and snow; Or if Job keeps count of the pregnancies and births of wild animals. He puts Job back in his proper place. And then, God says something unexpected:
After the Lord had spoken to Job, the Lord said to [Job’s friends]: “My anger burns against you…for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
Wait, what? Job spends 37 chapters complaining that he doesn’t deserve this suffering, while his friends attempt to stand up for God by dismissing Job’s pain. And when God shows up, he affirms Job and is angry with the friends? This is not what I expected.
I grew up in a religious climate that taught me to accept whatever God handed down - good or bad. There was no need to be angry, or ask questions, or complain because God knew what was best. Anything but complete acceptance was symptomatic of a lack of faith. It was for the weak, the doubters, the unbelievers.
But that’s just not true. God created emotions. He has emotions. And one of them is anger when religious people throw platitudes at pain. He approved of Job who was honest about the injustice of suffering.
A wise friend of mine recently told me that “any feeling left unfelt never goes away.” I encourage you to feel your feelings. Even when it’s confusing, or they seem to contradict one another. And better yet, take those emotions to the only safe place for them to land—to the God who hears.
I don’t know how you’re suffering. But I know you are, or you have in the past, or you will in the future. And I want you to know that when it hits the fan, you can tell God. He can handle it. He can handle you. You can be confused by God. You can feel let down by Him. You can even be pissed at Him. Just be bold enough to tell Him.
God hasn’t addressed any of my complaints about my daughter’s disease. He didn’t answer any of Job’s questions either. But in giving voice to my pain, I came to understand that, though my world has changed, God has not. The same God who heard my cries for a child still hears me. He isn’t put off by my pain, or questions, or anger. He is still the God who hears.
So no matter where you are, speak up. God’s listening.
How do you process emotions? Do you tend to get stuck in them and be driven by them? Or do you try to stuff them and distract yourself with something else?
Why doesn’t God take away our pain? Could there be a third answer beyond “He’s mean” or “Shut up, He has a plan?” (We think both of those are off and fall short.)?
Whether you’re used to talking to God or not, what if you handed all of your emotions to him? Whether it’s through praying, journaling, or letting yourself break down, try giving Him your biggest disappointment or heartache this week. Let your friends or group know how it goes.
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