Tommy was a joyful 2 year old with a contagious belly laugh. He always raced around the house and neighborhood chasing after his two older brothers (ages 4 and 5) trying to keep up. His mom, Meredith, shared in today’s episode what their family of six was like leading up to Tommy’s death. (Please see video below.) They were in what she describes as ‘a beautiful season in life.’ They had completed their family and had just decided to dedicate their life to missions and Bible translation.
After a mild fall about 3 weeks after that decision, Tommy complained of neck pain and had an episode of vomiting. When the neck pain continued two days later, and he seemed to be off balance walking, they went to the ER where he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although the diagnosis was devastating, the family was told that with this type of cancer, surgery was almost always curative. While waiting through the next day for surgery, though, Tommy, coded. They were able to get a heartbeat back and perform the surgery that was originally going to cure him.
Meredith and her family and friends did not give up on Tommy. She just knew that God would save him. She knew that a miracle would happen. God would not let her child die. He would show people the amazing power of prayer. They had dedicated their lives to God’s service; God would not ‘let them down.’
But, what happens when desperate prayers are not answered in the way that you want? What happens when you, everyone you know, and even people all around the world whom you don’t know pray that your son will live, and yet, he does not? We talk about feeling the need to search for a reason for this. Why did this happen? Was God trying to teach them something?
After Tommy’s death, the plans for mission work were dropped as they worked to heal as a family. They searched for answers to these questions, for some silver lining to this tragedy. After a year and a half of searching an answer though, they came to a new realization. There is not one answer to the question ‘why’, and there is not always one grand ‘reason’ for everything that results in something amazing happening here on earth.
We do not need to, and cannot, know all the answers. The idea of a prosperity gospel where good things will happen to you if you pray hard enough or live a life for Christ is not real life. Bad things happen to good people, people who pray and pray and pray some more. We do not just experience joy-filled lives. Life is often filled with great pain. In those times of great pain, God is not simply pounding His fist at us or trying to teach us some grand lesson; He is crying beside us.
The hard lesson that Meredith and I have both learned is that running from the pain or pretending the pain is not there does not work. We need to accept that while here on earth, we live in the pain, and God can walk beside us and even hold us during these times. We should not be afraid to even walk toward that pain to be with others who suffer. This does not mean that we will not experience joy and laughter again, just that it will be in the midst of our pain. As humans, we are able to feel more than one emotion at the same time. Some days, the joy and laughter may be the dominant emotion, while other days it may be our overwhelming sadness. It is all OK.