My 8-year-old son was playing a video game. He said, "Mom, look! I'm winning without touching the screen. It's going by itself." If he touched the screen, he could control the action, but he couldn't lose.
"Hmmm...," I said. "Is that fun for you?"
"No," He replied. "If I can't lose, why bother to play?"
I sat there for a moment, stunned into silence. Well, isn't that the truth? What hope do we have in a rich and pure life if we never struggle? If we can't lose?
Following Christ isn't like playing a video game where we can't lose. It's often frustrating and incredibly difficult. Is it supposed to be easy or convenient? We're promised peace in the middle of the difficulty and inconvenience, but we're also promised trouble from the very beginning.
I know this sounds dramatic, but when I was expecting my first child, I was so sick I wished for my own death. (Imagine nausea every moment you're awake, trying to eat to quell it, then throwing up everything you ate, every day, for 10 weeks straight. Now, imagine everyone around you treating you like you're just being dramatic. Like the fact that it was all due to a baby was enough to make the stomach-acid burns in your esophagus and nose less painful. Imagine not gaining a pound from pregnancy, but losing 30. And that's just the highlights.) I'd begged God for a child for at least 18 years, and now that I had one growing inside me, I was completely miserable. I'd go to sleep as the only way to escape my wretchedness.
The enormity of relief and pleasure when she was finally born was only compounded by how much I'd suffered to get to that day. The second she was out of my body, I was delivered from misery. The prize was great joy. There was no postpartum depression. In fact, my deep love and happiness caused me to have hope: rich and pure, for the ability to withstand more suffering. Five months later, I went through it all again. And two years later, once more!
The last time brought a very sick baby with life-altering disabilities. For a long time, hope was nowhere to be found. People said "Congratulations!", and I wanted to scream and demand to know what they thought was so good.
As I've learned from many other parents of children with disabilities, I would've been encouraged to abort my youngest if his diagnosis had been detected. They might point to the horror that was the next six months or so of my life. They might say I could've been spared the fight of my life, the new challenges every day brings. His older siblings would never know what it's like to take second place to a child who requires more from their parents. Our lives could've remained neatly wrapped up with a bright, shiny bow: the couple who finally found one another and had a perfect girl and boy.
But isn't the struggle the very thing that makes life GOOD? This amazing son of love and joy, this incredible light, would've been torn from my body, and I'd have kept my "perfect" little family. I'd have avoided hundreds of moments of difficulty. His siblings, who adore him, could've continued to live a life where their biggest problem was not making the travel team or who's not talking to them at school. But we would've also lost a lifetime of joy too wonderful for words.
In Genesis 16 and 21, we find the terrible story of Hagar and Ishmael. Rejected by Abraham and Sarah, turned out from their home and about to die, God chose to save them. God even chose to bless them. God knew this child would be the source of generations of hatred and war, and He still saved his life.
Why??? It would've been so convenient to let him die. Abraham's mistake, cleaned up.
God saved his life because He isn't in the business of preventing problems. He's in the business of guiding us through our problems.
Terrible circumstances, things that bring us difficulty and pain, can be the very things that make life GOOD. Life's challenges and trials - yes, even violently vomiting every day for months on end - build our character. They give us depth, perspective, and gratitude (even if it's still mixed with a touch of horror.) If I'd been unable to care for Redmond, he could've been the answer to years of desperate prayers for another family. (There are literally waiting lists for people to adopt children with Down syndrome. Check out the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network.)
No one wants to suffer. We don't want our children to suffer. We may even be tempted to go before them and try to eliminate as much suffering as possible, or intervene in situations where they're suffering a little, but we need to remember how much sweeter the victory is when it's been hard-fought.
Even if the child's life means generations of war, God deems that life worthy. Who are we to say it's not? Just like the video game with no chance to lose is boring, a life without challenges would be a life without the joy of victory.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,
because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
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