Sometimes our worlds crash in on us without warning.
Twenty years ago, our fourth child was born with a severe, life-threatening heart defect. We were devastated. I’ll never forget watching them wheel our baby away and wondering if we’d ever see him again. I was numb with fear.
For nine months I had dreamt about this baby, wondering who it would be, building hopes and dreams, loving this child in advance—and suddenly, all of that was hanging by a thread. What if he doesn’t make it? My heart sank to a place where I couldn’t see any light. All I could feel was pain.
I sat outside the operating room door and opened my Bible. I turned to the Psalms and my eyes fell on Psalm 33: “The LORD looks down from heaven, he sees all the sons of men; … he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds” (vss. 13, 15).
“He who fashions the hearts of them all.” That line jumped off the page. God, the creator of all things, the God who knit our son together in my womb and gave him life, fashioned his heart.
I know God didn’t purposely create a defective heart. That sort of thing is a result of the Fall. But God allowed that in the child he gave us. He entrusted this child to us, knowing what the situation would be. I remembered Psalm 139, which tells how God created each person and wrote down all the days that were formed for us, in His book. “How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God” the Psalmist continues. “How vast is the sum of them!” (vs. 17).
As I read, I felt like God was throwing me a lifeline. He reminded me that he created our son and loves him even more than we do. That he created him with a purpose—and even planned the number of his days. And when he created him, he gave him to us to take care of, for however long he is with us: whether that is an hour, a few days, or a lifetime. Our job is to love him and be the best parents we can be, while he is with us.
That quiet reminder of who God is and of his loving care opened up a window of hope in my heart. Our son got through that crisis. He’ll be 20 next month and is doing well. But even if he hadn’t, or if the physical problems had continued more than they did: Whatever the outcome, I was assured in that moment that God loves that boy and has a plan that will end up in goodness. Even if we don’t understand it, this side of heaven, we can trust and hope in him.
There’s an interesting thing about the word “hope” in Hebrew, tikvah. Hebrew is a concrete language. It doesn’t have words for abstract ideas, it uses tangible words that help you understand what a thing means. So in Hebrew, the second meaning of the word tikvah is to hope; “to look for;” “to wait with patience.” The primary meaning is more concrete: tikvah is a cord: as in a string or rope made of several strands twisted together for strength. Hope, in Hebrew, is a rope.
When I think about our experience with our son, and I remember the rope of hope that God threw to us to hang onto, I see there were three strands to that rope:
- First, there was God’s person (the reminder of who he is and his character; of his power and love and faithfulness that never change).
- Then, there were God’s past deeds (the reminder of the things God did in history that prove he is faithful, and strong, and reliable: We know what he did from the Bible, from the lives of the saints, and from our own lives and the lives of people we know).
- Finally, the third strand is God’s promises, his plan. As it says in the very first paragraph of the Catechism, God has a “plan of sheer goodness.” He created us to share in his blessed life and has made many firm promises that we can count on, to help us to get there.
Faith in those three things together—God’s person, his past deeds, and his promised plan—came together in a strong, three-stranded cord that gave us something to hang onto. It lifted our eyes off the problem and became a lifeline of hope that didn’t depend on the outcome but on God.
You know what they say. If you run out of rope, tie a knot and hang on! In whatever situation you’re in right now: if you run out of hope, twist together those three strong strands—your knowledge of God’s person, his past deeds, and his promised plan [Read the Bible, study the lives of the saints, and discover these things if you don’t know them already]. Now—knot them together and hang on! The Lord “goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you: do not fear or be dismayed. God will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
© 2016 Sarah Christmyer. This is part of a talk I give to women on hope and faith in the life of Rahab.