I pressed send. The “whoosh” sound somehow signaled my emotions to spill out of the invisible container buried deep inside of me. The tears didn’t come right away, but there was a sudden awareness of all the old familiar feelings that used to be my constant companions.
A remembering or a knowing that only a mom of a chronically ill child can recall, a mix of feelings she will never forget.
Immediately, I clicked on the sent folder and reread my email, years of ups and downs, successes and failures, prayers and sacrifices, typed out on a single page. It seemed unreal, that we lived that life for so many years.
I did my best to answer all of Jessica’s questions about Drew’s five-year long journey with epilepsy and I shared the specifics of how we managed a strict version of the ketogenic diet that ultimately led to Drew’s healing.
Jessica had a lot of questions, rightfully so. She is about to embark on a similar journey with her own son, Jacob, and if I could do anything to help ease her burden, I would. A single email didn’t seem to match the severity of her situation with her son’s seizures, and yet, I prayed I could offer her a bit of hope and shared understanding.
All I know is how I wished I had known someone, personally, who had walked this road before me. Because roads like this one are lonely, especially when we look around and can’t see anyone else walking nearby.
By God’s grace, I’m a little further down the road and I can look back and say, “Keep going, Jessica! It’s worth it.” I don’t know what the outcome will be for her and Jacob, but I do know God will be with them. God will use their pain for a greater purpose somehow.
It’s been four years since I got the call with Drew’s results of a normal EEG, and I’ve been blown away by how God continues to use Drew’s story as a beacon of hope for others who are walking through neurological disorders and other similar health struggles.
Without a doubt, I know God uses our pain points to speak into other people’s lives.
Shared pain connects us to other people’s stories because we all experience suffering in our lives. Pain may be packaged and delivered differently, but on this side of heaven, it’s absolutely unavoidable.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.1 Peter 4:12
It’s unlikely you have a son with epilepsy. But maybe you have a child who is going through a health struggle of some kind. Or maybe you have a child who has ADHD, high anxiety, or is one who struggles with reading. Or maybe you, yourself, are walking through a health struggle, grief, or yet another transition in life.
I don’t know the specifics of your pain points, but maybe there is an invisible container of your own, bottled up deep inside of you. Maybe unexpected triggers are flooding you with old familiar feelings, too.
Your pain is not meaningless and it does not have to be avoided at all costs.
When we have enough courage to let God do a work in us by walking through our pain rather than trying to go around it, he will grow something new within us.
A seed first has to be buried deep into darkness before it can sprout upward. Growth and maturation don’t happen overnight, but we can trust God will use the darkness to grow us.
Like green shoots, we break through the hard ground and rise up and touch the light. In time, we will bear fruit, and we will look back in awe and say, “Only God.”
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and hidden wealth of secret places.
So that you may know that it is
I, The Lord, the God of Israel,
who calls you by name.Isaiah 45:3
The day after I pressed send, I received another email in my inbox. This one took me by surprise. Awe and worship immediately rose up within me. “Only God.”
This email was from Duke TIP congratulating Drew for being among the top 7th graders in the state of South Carolina to have the highest SAT scores. Yes, you read that right. Drew had an opportunity to take the SAT (the real SAT – I’ve had several people ask – ha!) through the Duke TIP program and we saw it as just that, an opportunity with zero pressure to perform.
Drew took one practice test out of a big heavy SAT prep book I got him for Christmas and he bravely showed up on an early Saturday morning at a local high school to take this 4-hour long exam alongside 10th, 11th and 12th graders. He saw it as a way to stretch his brain and as an excuse to get an expensive calculator. He knew he had our support and we didn’t care about his scores.
When I read this congratulatory email, it was less about his scores and more about remembering. In that moment, God brought to mind a memory of when Drew was 6 years old (the same age as Jessica’s son, Jacob).
Drew had just gotten back from a fun outing with a babysitter/friend named Carolyn. Carolyn told me how he had opened up to her while they were out. Drew confessed how sad he was that something was wrong with his brain. He couldn’t understand why God would make his brain that way. Carolyn had reassured him by saying God made his brain perfect, just the way it was.
While I was grateful to Carolyn for relaying the message to me, I remember crying alone in my back bedroom that day, grief washing over me at the realization that Drew had somehow indirectly received the message that something deep down was wrong with the way God had made him.
Carolyn was right. His brain was perfect, just the way it was. And maybe I needed to hear the truth just as much as Drew did that day.
This email sitting in my inbox was a picture of redemption for me, redeeming the very things we wrestled with years ago. We knew the truth and we fought to believe it, with faith like a mustard seed and with eyes that could not see.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1
And yet, here was proof of the truth, sitting in my inbox. Fruit bearing from the green shoot that grew up from the dark soil of epilepsy. The truth that God redeems all things. And in Him all things hold together. Jesus brings life from death. Proof that God can touch a little boy’s brain that misfires and fire it right into the front of the line.
Four years later, after his battle with epilepsy, Drew will walk across a stage at Furman University to receive a reward for his brain, perfectly made by God for a purpose. And I simply cannot wait to watch God continue to unfold his story.
Jesus redeems us, but our redemption story is ongoing, constantly unfolding.
All of creation is proclaiming this message. Look around.
Brown trees sprout bright green leaves, daffodils bloom brilliantly, bees buzz and birds sing. All of creation is welcoming in Spring. We can see God’s ongoing story of redemption all around us.
And when we take a look at our own lives, we can see it, too.
I see it in all my kids’ lives, all the time, not just in Drew’s. And I’m sure you see it in your kids’ lives too.
Trusting in God’s ongoing redemption story helps me face the hard things in life.
When I’m tempted to shield my children from pain that is inevitable and unavoidable, instead of minimizing it or ignoring it or trying to go around it, I can help them walk through it, trusting God will use it for their good and for God’s glory. God will use it to grow something new within them.
Jesus gives us the gift of faith to see hope when our eyes see suffering. God invites us to embrace the struggle and remember, because these are the very things God will use to help us be the light of the world.
So, don’t give up.
Your pain will not be wasted.
God is painting a glorious picture of redemption in each one of our lives, and just like Drew, your story is still unfolding.
*some names were changed for the sake of privacy.
Amanda Bryant says
This brought tears to my eyes. I remember those days. Drew is so unique and special. I still think about my time being privileged to get to babysit him and all the things I wrote in my journal about our time together and how smart he was. He has come through so much and his story is such a sweet one of redemption. I am so proud of him! Give him a big hug for me! I love you guys. Ps It was divine appointment that I read this today because I needed this message so much and the Lord knew it. Thank you for sharing your incredible story and heart for the Lord! I have been so blessed by this and you!
Thank you for taking the time to write in, Amanda! You are so dear to me and my whole family. Much Love to you.