“Why me, God?”
I wonder how many times a day our Heavenly Father has to hear those three words? I bet the number would be too high for anybody except God to count.
Last week, God heard those words coming from my lips.
A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about 2015, gearing up for the new year. Planning for time to be with our children and grandchildren. Helping and supporting Mac as he worked hard on remodeling our home. Focusing on all the amazing opportunities the Celebrate Recovery leadership team has in front of us. I was eager and excited and energetic as I began to plan out the year ahead.
The strange and unexplained abdominal pain wasn’t part of the plan. Our visit to the hospital was a necessity, but Mac and I both knew it wouldn’t be long. There were things to do and places to go.
As many of you know, Mac and I know a few things about hurt and pain in our lives. But for so many years, we’ve seen joy and freedom. We know that God works everything out for good for those who love Him. And it’s so easy to say that when everything is going smoothly.
Things suddenly got quite a bit rocky.
I blinked and bam, I suddenly heard doctors and nurses talking over me.
“We have to put a tube down your throat into your stomach. It’s the worse job a nurse hates to do to somebody.”
Wait are they talking about me? I didn’t even bring an overnight bag. Mac and I have work that needs to be done so I can’t stay here long.
Doctors confer with one another.
“We don’t know what’s wrong with you,” one says.
“We can’t wait any longer,” another says.
“We must do exploratory surgery as you may be becoming septic.”
“You won’t be able to eat or drink anything for seven days until your colon wakes back up.”
Don’t know? Can’t wait? Exploratory surgery? SEVEN DAYS???
I have a flashback to when I was seventeen years old waiting for doctors to deliver the child I planned to give away. Fear doesn’t have an expiration date. The enemy waits at all hours in all seasons. He had decided to strike, and he came with a vengeance.
I’d never felt such an intense pain in my life. I’ve had several different surgeries but nothing like this abdominal surgery. The extreme agony. The morphine brain. The ice-chips-only diet for five days.
In the dark night with the deepest shadows hovering over us, I told Mac to listen to me tell him what I wanted him to do if I didn’t make it. Speaking faint words on the phone with our daughters while Heath our son sat on one side of the bed and Mac sat on the other watching. None of us knowing if I was going to make it. All while so many other various calamities happened to different parts of our family.
The enemy was strong and he was active.
In the midst of the maelstrom, I had to ask the question. I wanted to know. I felt I had a right to know.
God, are you there?
I knew He heard me and I knew He watched and listened. So I continued my prayers. My petitions.
Why did this happen to me?
Yes, why me? Yes, I wanted to know.
And in the silent pit of heavy despair, I heard His response very clearly.
WHY NOT YOU? I LOVE YOU AND I WILL SUSTAIN YOU.
I suddenly realized I shouldn’t be demanding an answer from God. I needed to start praising Him for every single thing I was grateful for. The list was long, and I had a lot of thanking to do. So I gave thanks.
The peace of God—the stillness He brings—washed over me. So did the prayers of our Forever Family. And sometime between not being able to eat or drink for those five days, I heard Him say something else to me.
I’m not finished with you, Mary Owen. Your work on this earth is not done.
The bleak and brittle tremble coming from the darkness of fear faded when I heard God speaking to me. When I remembered that every single one of his mercies were new every morning.
I will not take for granted each new day He gives me.
In the end, the details aren’t the important part. Nobody wants to hear all about scar tissue from a hysterectomy wrapping itself around a colon. No. We don’t need those specifics.
But the prayers. The hope. The love from our Forever Family. All bundled up and sent upward to burst the Enemy’s plan. These are the things I want to give thanks for today. To remember and to smile about.
All the suffering the Enemy wanted suddenly withered away with a morning sunrise. God reminded us that He was in control, that He heard prayers, and that He would use this to glorify Himself.
Why me, God?
I know the answer now.
It’s the same answer He gave to that seventeen-year-old girl waiting in the delivery room all by herself.
I have plans for you, Mary Alane Howard.
Forty years later, God still has plans. I’m grateful and I’m humbled. But most of all, I’m thankful to still be here. Ready to spread some joy and hope in a world that desperately needs it. Ready to continue to praise His holy name for all He does every single day.
I’m ready. And I hope and pray you are too.