So in the last few weeks, I’ve found myself learning a lesson. You know those times when God just seems to hit you over the head with something repeatedly, because you obviously didn’t pay enough attention the first time? Yeah, one of those. I guess I’m a slow learner, as this one ended up knocking on my door several days in a row, until finally I found myself saying, “alright already, I get it now!”
For the last seven years, I’ve been saying, “Why me Lord, why me?” We would have one thing after another happen in our lives – just as we started taking a deep breath, ‘wham’ something else would knock us back down. To start with, we would pray really hard for help to overcome the current mess. Then we started praying that God would let us know what we were doing wrong – because we obviously must have been doing something wrong to get so many ‘lessons’ taught to us!
This lasted a couple of years – praying madly, reading my Bible to discover what it was that I was supposed to be doing and examining every area of my life to see where I was going wrong. For those non-Christians who’ve read this far, you might be thinking more along the lines of Karma or Kismet or the will of Allah. Regardless, it’s that feeling that surely all these bad things shouldn’t be happening to you, and there’s got to be something you can do to make them stop.
I didn’t find anything. I wasn’t leading a perfect life, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what the magical deed was that I should be doing, or not doing, as the case may be. Things kept ‘going wrong’ and I would just pray. Then we got to the time when we realised there was something very wrong with our son, and started off the diagnostic process, knowing already that it was most likely Autism. Followed closely by the realisation that our ‘quirky’ daughters had Asperger’s and that better parenting or time wouldn’t just help them to ‘grow out of’ their difficulties. We weren’t sleeping (because our son wasn’t), I was madly throwing myself into research, I had three daughters who were going ballistic and couldn’t be left unsupervised as they were becoming violent as well, and everything was coming crashing down over my head.
I got down on my knees and prayed so hard, asking the Lord to please help me, because I couldn’t do this anymore. I told Him I was incapable of going on by myself, that I seriously felt out of control and didn’t know how I could go on without Him to carry me through those very dark days. Two days later, one my of daughters came down with a serious case of whooping cough, closely followed by the rest of the family.
For the next three months (they don’t call it the 100 day cough for nothing), I would wake up at varied intervals during the night to the sound of a single scream and then instant vomiting. My husband ended up dividing his nights between the boys, one of whom had episodes of not breathing due to the cough, the other had intermittent vomiting. We had designated sick rooms and a ‘well’ room – that’s where the recovered kids slept. Once everyone was well, I had my first breakdown. No, it wasn’t the last.
A lovely Christian lady suggested that I should examine my life to see if I had any sin that God was trying to point out to me through all these events. I’ve forgiven her for that remark but I admit it took a while. A couple of people said perhaps we were like Job in the Bible – that God was using us as an example of faith remaining strong during trials. In that case, I failed. I admit to growing angry at God, yelling at Him as to why He was deserting me during this time, instead of giving me the strength to carry on. Strength that would have helped me avoid the breakdowns, the illnesses due to the major stress in my life, the times I yelled at my children and completely lost my temper with them.
I’ve spent the last seven years asking “Why me?” and not getting any answers. Until a few weeks ago. It came in various ways – a movie we watched, a sermon preached at church (which I listen to at home), a book I read. It came knocking gently at first, and then sort of took over like that proverbial speeding freight train that left me standing slightly winded, with a new respect for something far bigger than me.
You see, I was made to realise that I haven’t been asking “Why me Lord?” when things were going well. When we were blessed with 6 healthy babies at birth, I didn’t ask “Why me?” I haven’t asked it about the eighteen years of marriage I have been blessed with, despite the hard times or the fact that the divorce rate for parents of kids with disabilities is far higher than for the general population (which is bad enough already). I didn’t ask it about the times when the Lord has looked after us financially. Like the time when we found ourselves pregnant with our sixth child and knew we’d need a new car, but couldn’t possibly afford it. We prayed, and God spoke to friends of ours who bought us our van, with no expectation of anything in return.
I did ask it when my husband was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma and had to have literally a quarter of his nose removed, and also when the skin graft failed and he had to go through it all again. Strangely enough, I didn’t ask it when the second, third and fourth surgeries were successful and he has not had any other cancers since.
I guess in my eyes, I deserved to have a good life, one that was easy to cope with and had no nasties attached. Bad stuff was meant to happen to other people, not to me! That’s a rather ridiculous thought when you think about it. 🙂 It doesn’t make any sense for me to be expecting that God will only bless me with good stuff and not let me experience the sad, painful realities of life. By the way – please, please, please, don’t send me a comment saying “God never gives you more than you can handle”, because I haven’t found that verse in my Bible yet. He does tell us that He will be with us and we can call on Him for strength, but he also tells us that there will be trials and tribulations – that’s guaranteed.
One of the biggest questions I’ve had is, “Why did God give my son Autism?” I went through the lists of everything I had done ‘right’, the stuff I had purposely avoided or chosen not to do, and yet he still has Autism. For three years now, I have been pointing out to God that if only He hadn’t given my son Autism, then I would now be a much better Christian. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d be able to concentrate long enough to read my Bible or pray for more than 10 secs at a time. If my son could attend church with us, then I’d be able to go, too. If we weren’t spending an absolute fortune on treatments for my son, then we wouldn’t be sitting here with a Credit Card debt and a mortgage that we can’t really afford. Then I get an extra load of guilt because I’m telling God that I know better than He does!
So the thing I’ve learnt over the last couple of weeks, is that maybe, as hard-to-grasp as it is, just maybe, God DIDN’T give my son Autism to pick on me. I’m really hazy on where the line sits between ‘free will’ and ‘God ordained’ to be honest. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but as my hubby explained to me, He didn’t change it to something else – He just strengthened the resolve that was already there. He allowed Job to go through those trials to provide a lesson for others and to show His strength and sovereignty. He lets us choose our own path and make our own mistakes, even though He knows where that will all end up.
I still ask “why” though. I think it’s important to learn from our mistakes and be able to take steps to prevent them happening again. I am still asking “why did my son get Autism” because the answers help me to know how to treat him, to help his body heal, and to help him be the best that he can be. Those answers may also help prevent other children from having Autism. I may never learn all the reasons he has Autism, but rest assured that I’ll be finding that out when I get to Heaven. I’ve got a lot of questions to ask when I get there!
So I guess it’s a matter of changing the “why me?” to just “why?” Sometimes you might learn something useful and you will grow from that, or help others in their journeys. Other times, the answer will just be, “life happens”.