Letters to Taylor: On Suffering
My Sweet Girl,
What a week you had last week. On Sunday evening, the dark circles around your eyes caused them to sink. I knew something was wrong but wouldn’t have guessed that you were nauseous. When you began throwing up, your entire body heaving, I could hardly bear it. I would do anything to take your place.
How difficult it must be for you to be a prisoner within your own body! Not only does your body not function properly, but its command center malfunctions as well. And yet there is no way for you to comprehend it all.
After the retching finally stopped and you fell asleep, the next day your pale cheeks starkly contrasted the blue bed sheet. I stared at your chest for some time; focusing on its rise as reassurance that God still has you here. Agony overwhelmed my body and I sat there weeping. But only for a few minutes, because the mounds of laundry to do from the horror of the night before awaited me. It seems that never-ending physical tasks provide a temporary relief to sorrow.
A day later, you pressed your bony hand to your forehead, signaling pain, and I suspected seizures on the horizon. Sure enough, two grand mal seizures, one Thursday and one Friday, render you unable to hold up your head.
Oh, Taylor. I am so sorry that life is this hard for you. I don’t understand God’s plan at all in physical suffering. It leaves me deeply aching in my soul for your sake. I wish I could be the bearer of your pain and sorrow. But I must tell you what happened over the weekend.
After Miss Regina came to care for you on Sunday morning, Daddy and the kids and I passed the cemetery on the way to church. Last year when you grew so much sicker, I purchased a resting place for your body. When God calls you home to heaven, we will need a place to bury your body here on earth.
Just before we passed the cemetery, I couldn’t remember if all your siblings had seen the place we have chosen for this purpose. As if Daddy read my mind, he said, “Honey, have all the kids visited Taylor’s burial plot?” Quietly, I replied, “No, but they need to.” No further words were spoken, but Daddy and I know each other so well that we silently agreed that we should stop on the way home from church.
It was a special Sunday, but I didn’t foresee all that God had in store for us. Through a series of circumstances, we had chosen to go to church with Tiff & Zach instead of our church. That’s the reason we were driving past the cemetery to begin with; it’s not the usual route for us on Sunday mornings.
Once we settled into the auditorium seats and participated in worship, the pastor introduced a guest speaker. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed initially; I love hearing the usual pastor speak and listen to him online throughout the week. The monthly sermon series was introduced as “God with Us.” It seemed very normal for the first Sunday in the month of December. However, the pastor asked an important question: “How do we know God is with us when things are hard?” My heart sensed a shift.
The speaker told the story of an extremely difficult time in his life when he asked God the same question I’ve asked repeatedly. Why? And especially: Why suffering? Now remember, this man doesn’t know our family at all. He doesn’t know the week we just experienced with your suffering. He has no idea of the vomit, the headaches, the pain, the tears.
But God supernaturally orchestrates our lives and it became clear very quickly that our family was divinely appointed to be present in this high school auditorium to attend a church we don’t normally go to, to listen to a man we’ve never met, who sounds as if he knows every detail of our week.
He talked about mountaintop moments and how we feel like God is with us when we are on the mountaintop, but when we reach the valleys of life, we question whether God is truly with us.
When Jesus was on the cross, he expressed his deepest moment of suffering through the question, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You see, Jesus gave us permission to ask God where he is and to ask Him why. I think God is okay with us asking Him why. I know He doesn’t always give us the answers and I know we don’t always understand, but I have no doubts that God is with us.
Oh girlie, I just don’t know how we could walk this valley of suffering if God wasn’t with us each step of the way. I couldn’t even listen to the Sunday sermon if I wasn’t 100% sure that God loves our entire family so very much and He planted us right there in that row to hear a special message about what to do when you are walking through suffering.
The pastor shared several stories of events that had happened in his own life, paralleling much of what our family has gone through. Heartache, death, loss, disease, and the list continues. Suffering of all kinds permeates the world and we find ourselves often asking God, “Why have you left us?” But He has not left us. He is right here with us and will never leave us. He is with you, Taylor.
I carried away three points from the message on what to do while suffering. I can learn obedience to God in the suffering. I can love others through the suffering. I can worship God amid suffering. Girl, I feel like re-preaching his sermon to myself every day of the week. His words are on repeat in my mind.
After we left the church, Daddy pulled into the cemetery and we paused by your body’s future resting place. I don’t remember my exact words to your brothers and sisters, but I brokenly tried to explain that one day your body would lie beneath the ground in this spot. And although your body would rest here, the real you, your soul and spirit, would rest with Jesus in heaven. That you would have a new body. No more headaches. No more vomiting. No more seizures. No more suffering. In that new body moment, you will have a new mind and you will understand like you’ve never understood before. And one day, so will we.
While I’m feeling ready for your suffering to end, it’s as if God sent us a personal, intimate message on Sunday that said, “I see you, my children. Suffering is temporary; I am with you. I will walk with you through this valley and when you think you can’t take another step, I will carry you, each of you.”
He’s got us. He’s got the whole world in his hands. And you? You are right in the palm of it.
God with us.
I hope you rest tonight. I love you.
To Readers: I know folks will be asking about that sermon, so I’ve included it below. I pray it floods your soul with peace like it did mine. xo