Hope. Healing. Hurting. Hanging on.
I’ve settled on Hanna, realizing that her story envelopes all of these things.
Though she’s only five years old, she’s impacted me heavily, as I know she’s done for many others.
She deserves a heartfelt dedication.
WHO IS HANNA & WHY DOES SHE GET LETTER “H”?
Last Friday, I received a phone call from a sister in Christ. I heard the torment in her voice as soon as she spoke.
“It’s going to be hard for me to say this,” she confessed, “so please be patient with me.”
I promised that I would.
It was nearly impossible for her to speak. She took a deep breath … a few of them actually and, after stumbling over her words, she finally pushed it out.
“How do I pray for the death of a child?”
It’s so hard to hear a friend sobbing through the phone. One of the gifts God has given us for comfort is the ability to hug the hurting, but my arms were tied by the distance of a telephone line.
Kate explained that Hanna is the five-year old daughter of her high school pal. Hanna was diagnosed with cancer last year and has subsequently been enduring the horrible side-effects of chemotherapy, with no success.
Soon after the bleak diagnosis, Kate’s friend had asked her to pray for Hanna’s complete healing and Kate’s been diligent in her promise to do so. But last week, after learning that Hanna was not improving, Kate’s pal sent a new request.
“Please change your prayer.”
Without saying it, Kate’s friend was admitting that physical healing may not be in God’s plan. Now, she just wanted Kate to pray for Hanna to be taken quickly. Watching the sweet child’s suffering had become too agonizing to bear.
Hanna awakens in the night, screaming in pain. She can’t sit up on her own. She rarely smiles. A breathing tube is taped to her face and her skin is gray. She’s lost the chubby cheeks and lively eyes that a child should possess and her perfectly shaped little head shows no evidence of the lovely locks that once adorned it.
SOMETIMES, GOD CONFUSES ME
I confess. I don’t understand it.
I realize there will be suffering in this life and I believe that a lot of it is our own doing.
How can we wrap our minds around the anguish that this little innocent and her family must endure?
Kate and I agreed not to pray for death, but for an end to Hanna’s suffering, realizing that the requests may be one-in-the-same.
“But,” we discussed, “if God chooses to end her suffering by taking her home to Him, it will introduce a new kind of misery to her family.”
My soul was heavy as we spoke about it.
I consider myself a steady Christian. I don’t doubt that God exists and that He is perfect. I’ve experienced too many miracles and supernatural events to question these things. But that doesn’t mean I don’t question His purpose when I hear about the Hanna’s of the world.
Some people have told me that I shouldn’t question God. I get that. He’s the almighty, all-powerful, all-loving. His love, mercy, and greatness span beyond my intellectual reach.
Even so, I believe that God created us to question. He wants us to wonder, even when we seek answers that may not be ours to find; even when our inquisitiveness forces us to admit that our struggles seem senseless.
He loves us enough to allow us to query the purpose behind our pain and, in my estimation, He understands why we do it.
If we didn’t interrogate, think about the wonders of which we never would have learned! (I don’t know that I’d even believe in God if I hadn’t questioned things a time or two.)
SO, WHY IS THE HEALER LETTING HANNA HURT?
Christian or not, I don’t know if anybody can truly know the answer to that question.
I have to believe there’s a reason – a bigger plan that we simply can’t see. But how do we find peace in knowing that a God who adores His children allows us to suffer so severely?
And when somebody reminds that “there’s a purpose for our pain,” is it fair for us to be a little offended that God would permit us to experience this intense torment, just so He can accomplish a purpose we can’t yet identify?
HOW CAN AGONY BE PART OF GOD’S PLAN?
I know God’s plan is perfect, but it’s so hard to understand, especially when it involves a helpless family having to witness the long-term suffering of their precious Hanna.
When people ask me why God allows such anguish, I often don’t have an answer.
My head spins and my heart hurts, knowing there are thousands of Hanna’s out there. Not only children who are enduring the pains of a slow death, but so many others who are questioning God’s purpose, His mercy, and even His existence.
THE HEADLINES SCREAM FOR ANSWERS
I watched the news before bed last night.
As they’d been for weeks, the newscasters were discussing the status of missing Malaysia airlines flight 370.
“Holding out Hope” was the caption that shot across the screen. A woman, draped in sorrow, talked about her lost love. Her eyes were hollow and weary from weeks of anguish.
That story was immediately followed by, “35 Confirmed Dead in Washington Mudslide”. The newsman explained that even more bodies were expected to be found.
Our world is full of sadness, heartache, and pain.
We’re bound to wonder why. After all, God is the Healer. He can do anything. Even though He can, sometimes He doesn’t. It’s hard to find comfort in that.
How come He allows these things to happen?
I’m afraid that oftentimes, we won’t get an answer.
As I closed my prayers last night, the question lingered.
HELPLESS VS. HOPELESS
All I know is to keep praying. Praying that God brings unexplained peace and healing to those who are hurting, that His divine comfort will blanket them, that one day they will understand. I pray that the future will reunite them with their lost loved ones and that they will discover a purpose greater than they ever imagined.
Mostly, I pray that God will plant a seed of hope within their tears.
The headline from the news shouted it, “Holding out Hope!”
Sometimes, it’s the only thing that keeps us breathing when we’re feeling helpless.
I pray that the blanket of despair that so many are experiencing will not overshadow the healing power of hope.
Hope for answers.
Hope for comfort.
Hope for peace.
Hope for newfound joy.
I know we may never receive the answers we seek. But, I also know that without hope – even just a morsel of it – we will be overcome and our spirits will perish.
At one time or another, we’ll all experience God’s miracles and life’s miseries. I don’t understand why the miracles so often seem overshadowed by the miseries, but there must be a reason for it.
I ask you to wrap those who are hurting in your divine comfort. Shield them from continued anguish and overwhelm them with the knowledge of your presence. Even though we don’t understand why you allow us to ache like this, help us to trust you. Give us peace and, God, please bless our loved ones – those whom we hurt over – the lost, the missing, the ill.
Thank you for blessing us with them. They were and are your gift to us. Without them, we wouldn’t be hurting like this, but we also wouldn’t have experienced the joy and love that came with their presence.
Remind us, Father, that your plan is perfect and that you have promised that we can be together again in paradise. Help us to hold onto that promise and to live our lives according to your will.
In Christ’s name,
[Some of the names and non-critical details have been altered to protect the anonymity of Hanna’s family.]