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A Lifeline
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“Crisis brings us face to face with our inadequacy and our inadequacy in turn leads us to the inexhaustible sufficiency of God.”
- Catherine Marshall

By Barbara Ayton

Life flows along for the most part as expected doesn’t it? Whether we’re dealing with the intense studying which promises a future through schooling; the monotony, challenge or excitement of work; the chaos and joys of raising children and on and on. There are rough waters and smooth sailing, all to a certain degree expected. Sometimes though, we encounter something like our own personal tsunami looming before us immense and imminent. The unexpected and unbelievable is happening and there is scarcely time to gather our thoughts.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to know of quite a few people who are going through the unimaginable. The diagnosis of cancer in a sister, in a young woman preparing to wed, in young moms with children depending on them, in young children barely beginning school, in a father of young adults. I know of premature newborns who are clinging to life, children whose lives will forever look different because of things that happened before their birth and young people rebuilding their lives after damages sustained. Loss is eventually a part of everyone’s life, but I know of some arresting situations that came out of nowhere, jarring in their timing. The loss of a brother, a mom, a dad, the loss of a child, the loss of a spouse –way too soon.

In recent years, our family faced its own “tsunami” named “ALS” (Lou Gehrig’s), a fatal, motor-neuron disease. Bruce, my husband and father to our three sons, had his diagnosis confirmed on our oldest son’s twenty-third birthday. Our middle son was twenty and our youngest was fourteen. After the initial wave sent us swirling into the unknown, we were told the average life expectancy was 2-5 years, perhaps less as Bruce’s breathing was already an issue. The time he had would depend somewhat on the extended measures we were willing to take. Extended measures? This meant a BiPAP machine to regulate and assist with breathing, a feeding tube when eating would become too difficult, a cough assist machine to manage saliva, a suction machine…and more if we chose. A new vehicle and a new place to live conducive to our needs would need to be found. There would be wheel chairs, hospital beds and lifts. Layers upon layers of information meant to inform and instruct, but all I could see was that I was going to lose my husband. Our sons would lose their father. Before that happened we were to provide care at home and watch, helplessly, as, little by little, his body lost its ability to function and life ebbed away. I remember well the waves of emotion that swept over me, the feelings of inadequacy that emerged. I felt completely unequal to this task, yet there I was.

There is nothing like facing devastation for us to recognize our own littleness, weakness and inadequacy. The lack of control we have. But there is also nothing like knowing, whatever the devastation, we can lift our arms up, cry out to the Lord and trust ourselves and those we love to Him. The One who is adequate, all-sufficient and the definition of love. The all powerful One by whom the world in all its immensity and intricacy was formed is also the One who reached down and enfolded small children in His arms refusing for them to be prevented in coming to Him.

I remember many times along the way crying out, “I can’t do this Lord, I can’t. You know me, You know I can’t, You’ll have to do it in me” …and somehow He did. People would tell me how strong I was, and it always surprised me. A few times, especially nearing the end of our struggle, I was so aware of my weakness that I would begin to lift my hand in an almost “talk to the hand” kind of manner and say, “If you see any strength, that is God, not me.” It seemed offensive to let people think it was anything of me. I was acutely aware of my littleness, but also of God’s greatness. He provided all that was needed in massive and minute ways. Day and night, I was amazed at the things I was able to handle both physically and emotionally that I never would have thought possible. He provided His strength and enablement in each moment as needed. More than that, He provided assurance of His love when I felt unlovable or incapable of loving, reminders of His forgiveness when I felt defined by the word “wrong”. Underlying it all was this strange sense of peace that no matter what, He would be there even if I couldn’t feel it, even if I didn’t like where this was going. I had my moments and there were many…especially in the middle of the night. Sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder why this was happening to Bruce, to our kids, to me, but that’s when standing in His promises came in.

Early on, we were sent on a cruise by many friends from our church and the first morning we woke up, I drew the curtains on a cloudy day, the vastness of the water surrounding us and a rainbow. It was a reminder to look to God’s promises, that He was there and in control.

We wound up with 4 years and three months of precious, yet difficult time. What I would not give up, what I hope everyone swimming for the surface in difficulty finds, is the intense clinging to Him that crisis brings leading to an ever-deepening trust in a faithful God who sustains us and carries us through. Finding in a real way, His power to be perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). He is more than enough. Jesus is the lifeline, the one secure thing to hold on to when life is falling apart.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thess. 3:5