This article was originally published in the April 2018 issue of HomeLife.
On December 1, 2009, our lives changed forever. I walked into a doctor’s office with a “normal” life, and left with a “diagnosis.” I’m not sure if a day like this has ever happened to you, but for me it was one of the worst days of my life. If this has happened to you, you’ve already pulled up this day from your memory bank, and no doubt the feelings from that day are rushing to your mind all over again. You’re more than likely recalling the doctor’s words about your diagnosis, and you could close your eyes and picture every single thing about the office you sat in when you heard your worst news ever. If you haven’t experienced this day yet, trust me when I say it was one of the hardest days of my life — and the odds of this happening to you are higher than any of us would like to admit.
My son always had the cutest raspy voice. People would often stop us and comment on his peculiar but very endearing voice after hearing him speak. It seemed to fit his spunky personality, as well. This cute little raspy voice was beginning to interfere with his life though. I started to notice that when I was in the car with him and he would speak to me, I could no longer hear him, and I had to read his lips in the mirror. If you’re a mom, you know that typically reading lips isn’t necessary since kids have one volume — loud! His adorable raspy voice started to concern me, so I discussed it with our pediatrician, who referred us to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor). No reason to be concerned. Everything seemed routine. No big deal.
The day our appointment for the ENT arrived, I had no clue what would unfold in that doctor’s office. I’m certain I went about life as usual, as it was a normal, typical, not-gonna-hear-the-worst-news-ever kind of day. Things seemed so routine and laid back that I didn’t even ask my husband to join us, and had my 2-year-old in tow (which is the clearest sign of all that I had no clue about the bomb that was about to drop on me). The doctor joined us in the room, listened to my son speak, and practically diagnosed him before putting on his gloves for the exam. He said the words that we all dread hearing. The words that make our hearts and minds go to scary, unthinkable places. The words that cause us to question all that we know to be true. Disease. Cancer. No cure. Surgery.
On that afternoon, our doctor explained to me that our son would need surgery within the next week; he had a disease that is fairly uncommon, mysterious in nature, and incurable. To say my momma heart was broken in two would be an understatement. As parents, we want to protect our kids from hurt and pain. We sometimes think this is our job, and that day I felt as though I had failed at my job. I wasn’t able to protect my baby from the diagnosis that we were given.
Earlier that morning, we had a normal, happy breakfast around the table together, and by dinner we were researching a disease we’d just learned about hours earlier. That morning I felt secure and safe, and by the afternoon my head was spinning with what-ifs about my son’s future. The day shifted right before my eyes.
The World Turned Upside Down
I sometime wonder if the disciples felt like this the night Jesus was arrested. If they felt as though, all of a sudden, their entire world changed right before their eyes. As if one minute they were enjoying dinner with Jesus, and the next He was being laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. I imagine them shaking their heads, wondering what had transpired over the last 24 hours of their lives.
We get the privilege of being on the other side of history, so to us, we see all the signals that Jesus was throwing at them — quoting Old Testament Scripture, explaining the crushing and rebuilding of the temple, using the imagery of His body being eaten and blood being drank. We get these things because we have the whole story. We’re fully aware that two days later, Jesus would conquer the grave and come back to life. We know that days later, He would leave this earth and go to prepare a place for us. We know these things, so the Friday dinner doesn’t look so bleak to us.
But to the disciples, that night was their everything. All their hopes and dreams crushed in one arrest. Jesus spent those last few hours with His best friends, encouraging them, and guiding them in how He wanted them to live. He washed their feet. He commanded them to love one another. He told them about the Counselor who would comfort them. He prayed for them. He prayed for all of us. And then He walked into the garden and was arrested. Right before the disciples’ eyes their best Friend, their Guide, their Teacher was taken away for crimes He didn’t commit.
As tragic as this event seemed to the disciples, we know that it was crucial for us all. We know the whole story — we know the ending, and we know what transpired over the next few days is what gives us hope. Jesus knew that His time on earth wasn’t without purpose, and that purpose was about to be completed.
When we celebrate Easter, we celebrate the fact that when Jesus was crucified, He went to battle with sin and conquered it once and for all. We no longer need to pay the penalty for our own sins, because Jesus did that for us. Friday was dark and bleak and seemed hopeless to those watching. It seemed as though the world had won. Jesus was dead. He didn’t kill the soldiers and rescue Himself from that terrible cross. He hung there and died. It seemed as though the whole plan had failed. How in the world had Jesus died?
If I’m honest, sometimes I feel this way about sickness and death and disease. It hurts so badly to watch someone suffer, especially when it’s your own child. I feel like a disciple watching Jesus be tortured to death and thinking, I thought this was going to end up differently, Jesus. Why is this happening to us? Is this the way it has to be?
But Then … The Sun Rises
I can’t help but tear up when I think about that Sunday, two thousand years ago, and the joy of the morning when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. She was distraught with the knowledge that her Teacher, her Friend, her Leader, had been taken away. Then Jesus called her, “Mary”, and she immediately turned around to see Him. He was alive! Her Rabbi was not dead, but alive!
Sunday is the day that changed it all. For her. For the disciples. For all of us.
Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but He rose again, defeating sin and death for all time. This brings us much hope because, though our lives are full of sorrow and pain, sickness and unwanted diagnoses, death and betrayal, Jesus’ death brings us hope in the midst of the messiness of life. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can boldly proclaim the truth that Paul proclaims in Romans: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (8:18). We have a hope awaiting us in heaven that infinitely outshines the suffering and pain that we might experience here. The resurrection of Jesus confirms hope for us.
This is our great hope. This is what sustains us in times of suffering and doubt. Following that dreadful December day, my son underwent seven surgeries in two years, then his doctor declared him to be in remission. Could the disease come back with a vengeance? For sure. Does this bring me pain and sorrow? For sure.
But then I remember that glorious, beautiful Sunday all those years ago, when our Savior rose from the grave and conquered sin and death forever. This changes my view on suffering and allows me to trust Him even in the midst of my worst-day-ever days. Easter brings us hope in the midst of our hard days, hope in the midst of our diagnosis, hope in the midst of our suffering.
Because of Jesus and His resurrection, we can have the greatest joy even in the worst suffering. I’m so thankful the sun came up on that Sunday morning, long ago! Every day until Jesus returns, we can experience the mingling of sorrow and joy in all things.
What if you knew all the moments of my past that I’m not proud of? What if you really knew me, the messy parts that I’ve hoped to forget and worked hard to conceal? For so long, my greatest fear was what you might think of me if you only knew the whole story.
It’s exhausting, this guarding of our stories and struggles. Fear of being found out had caused me to hide — but I wasn’t just covering my flaws. I was unintentionally blocking the beauty of God’s grace. My journey to real freedom began when I quit running from my mess and started trusting Jesus to make something beautiful of it.
If You Only Knew is that story. It’s stepping out of shame and insecurity into gospel freedom. It’s letting God turn our failures and frailties into testimonies of His faithfulness. I’ve discovered that when we quit hiding, God gets the glory and we’re able to fully embrace not only our relationship with Him, but also with one another.
Transparency brings freedom, and in every moment, we’ll find that God can absolutely be trusted.
Jamie Ivey believes we’re all on this journey of life together and we need each other to get to the end. Through her podcast, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, and blog, she takes a raw and intimate approach to her speaking and writing. Jamie’s prayer and hope is for God to use her words to encourage and show others that they aren’t alone, while constantly pointing them to Jesus. She is mother to four kids and wife to Aaron. Jamie loves reading, date nights, Mexican food, and traveling the world with her family.