A friend of mine has a son whose broken little heart and complicated body are incompatible with life. He lies on a bed in the ICU at one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, nearly buried beneath a maze of wires and tubes. There’s the machine that keeps his heart beating, the tube that forces oxygen into his lungs, and the monitor recording his level of brain activity. It would be easy to miss his tiny frame entirely, except for the rainbow-striped stuffed donkey tucked into the crook of his arm and the handmade fleece blanket covered in Minions tucked around his legs.

The juxtaposition of the two—the sterility of the hospital room and the softness of a three-year-old’s favorite things—is my undoing. Everything within me screams it’s not supposed to be this way. It’s an impossible thing for me to reconcile, that God is good and everything he makes is perfect, but that he also hand-built a little boy who needs a medical miracle to see age four.

I’ve read the Bible. I know God could heal him. He made a bush burn and separated the sea to save His people in Egypt. Jesus spent His adult life healing lepers, returning sight to the blind, and making the lame walk again. He brought Lazarus back from the dead after four days in a tomb. My God has a track record of miracles. Healing a broken heart is completely within His wheelhouse.

Or, even better, God could’ve created him with a perfect heart to begin with.

He has done neither.

Then there’s that verse hiding in the eighth chapter of Romans. The one that’s always brought me such comfort now makes my teeth clench and my hands curl into fists.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

What does this mean? That this little boy’s mama doesn’t love God enough, and so that’s why this is happening? Or, should I suggest to her that losing her son is part of God’s purpose because it says so in Romans 8:28?

Dear God, in the face of such sadness and loss, how can You begin to suggest that this is Your handiwork, and that it is good? To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

***

Christmas gets all the love in the ecumenical calendar, the only holiday that gets a whole, dedicated “season.” It’s easy to see why: there are presents and baked goods, festive colors and whimsical decorations. Colder climates get the whiteness of snow to camouflage the dingy deadness of the winter landscape, allowing us to believe in fresh starts and new beginnings. I don’t begrudge Christmas its celebration; the month that holds the darkest day of the year needs a spot of brightness, a hope that the change we’ve been waiting for is upon us.

While Christmas is about hope and promise, Easter is about the fulfillment of that promise. Within hope there always remains a grain of uncertainty—will what we’ve waited for come to pass? We can be confident in Easter though. Good triumphs evil and mankind is redeemed. We were right to hope, and we can celebrate in its completeness. If Christmas is bright and cheery, then Easter is light and airy. It is easy to call them both good because they feel good.

But on the day we call Good Friday, there was darkness. The disciples went into hiding, and Mary wept at the foot of the cross.The day became like night and earthquakes split the ground wide open as Jesus breathed his last.

How does a day full of such sadness and pain come to be called good? Jesus’ devotion to God’s plan for salvation came to fruition, and consecrated us to Him. Humanity was offered a path to sanctification for the first time, and suddenly the breadth of this life became insignificant in comparison to eternity. It may not have been good, but it sure as hell was holy.

Maybe my problem then isn’t with the word, but with the definition.

If God Himself was so undone by the suffering and death of His Son that creation reflected His grief, then surely my pain is valid. I don’t have to see the good in this. Not when everything about it feels wrong. This is, quite simply, not how God designed life to be. He did not mean for little bodies to be hooked up to machines and monitors, hovering between life and death. He did not intend for mothers to watch their children fight for their lives. He did not create us so that we could spend our days pleading with Him to heal our children and our world. He built us with His eyes focused unwaveringly on eternity. When God promised that all things work for good, perhaps He meant not here but there, where broken hearts and weakened lungs and damaged minds are made whole.

If sometimes life in our fallen world is so woefully ungood, can it still be holy? When we are devoted to God, so is every moment of our lives. He is present in our joy, but also in our heartbreak. He claims it all, and if His hand is on our lives then doesn’t that make them a little bit holy, too? It’s different from being easy or light, and it’s certainly not always good. But when I look closely, I can see His handiwork.

I see it in the thousands of people joined together in prayer. I see it in a mama who continues to hold onto the promises of Scripture that God has not deserted her. I see it in a little boy whose body may be devastatingly broken in this life but will be healed to perfection in the next.

Our lives are a tapestry of His making, but I wouldn’t have picked all of the threads He’s using. Some are dark and heavy, making it difficult to continue the pattern. Others are so coarse and rough that they sting my hands to the point of rawness. On their own, those threads don’t make it beautiful. But perhaps they exist to add weight, depth and texture, rather than beauty.

When I step back and take it all in, there’s no denying that what He has woven together is a masterpiece. Not because it’s soft or warm, but because it bears His fingerprints. It is holy, and that alone makes it good.

Any contributions to help the family can be sent via PayPal to [email protected].

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jennifer Batchelor

Jennifer Batchelor is a wife, mother and writer from Nashville, Tenn. She’s a member of the writing team at Coffee + Crumbs, a collaborative blog about motherhood, and her writing has also appeared on Scary MommyMamalodeUpwrite Magazine and The Sunlight Press.

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

God Has You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman hugging herself while looking to the side

Holding tight to the cold, sterile rail of the narrow, rollaway ER bed, I hovered helplessly over my oldest daughter. My anxious eyes bounced from her now steadying breaths to the varying lines and tones of the monitor overhead. Audible reminders of her life that may have just been spared. For 14 years, we’d been told anaphylaxis was possible if she ingested peanuts. But it wasn’t until this recent late autumn evening we would experience the fear and frenzy of our apparent new reality. My frantic heart hadn’t stopped racing from the very moment she struggled to catch a breath....

Keep Reading

My Husband Having a Stroke at 30 Wasn’t in Our Plans

In: Faith, Living
Husband and wife, selfie, color photo

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) This verse in the book of Jeremiah has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it’s felt relevant across many life events. Its simple, yet powerful reminder has been a place of solace, perhaps even a way to maintain equilibrium when I’ve felt my world spinning a bit out of control. In this season of starting fresh and new year intentions, I find great comfort in knowing...

Keep Reading

She Left Him on Valentine’s Day

In: Faith, Marriage
Husband kissing wife on cheek, color photo

“Can you believe that?” Those were the dreaded knife-cutting whispers I heard from across the table. I sunk deeper into my chair. My hopes fell as everyone would forever remember that I had left my fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Maybe one day it would just dissipate like the dream wedding I had planned or the canceled plane tickets for the Hawaiian honeymoon. Some bridesmaids and guests had already booked plane tickets. It was my own nightmare that kept replaying in my head over and over again. I had messed up. Big time. To be honest, if it made any difference,...

Keep Reading

God was In the Room for Our Daughter’s Open Heart Surgery

In: Faith, Motherhood
Child's hand with IV

I’ve had a strong faith for as long as I can remember, but I always felt bad that I never had a “testimony.” I had never gone through something that made me sit back and say, “Wow, God is real, He is here.” I have always felt it to my core, but no moment had ever stopped me dead in my tracks to where there was no denying that it was God. And then, that moment happened to me on December 5. After five months of fervently praying for a miracle for our daughter, the day came for her heart...

Keep Reading

A Benediction for the Worn Out Mother

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman leaning against kitchen counter, black-and-white photo

Blessed are you, Father, for bestowing upon me the honor of motherhood. For allowing me to experience the deep joy of bringing forth life—a joy I often take for granted and instead choose to begrudge. My children’s cries and demands have worn me down. I do not recognize myself. I selfishly long for the old me. My thoughts are an intangible mess of never-ending tasks, self-criticism, and comparison to those around me. RELATED: God Sees You, Weary Mama But Your word says you are near to the broken-hearted and downtrodden. You do not forget the cause of the tired and the...

Keep Reading

God Doesn’t Forget You When You’re Lost and Unsure

In: Faith, Living
Woman looking into camera, color photo

I’ve been wandering around feeling lost for over a year. Wondering where I’m going, what I’m supposed to be doing. Nothing seems to make sense. I felt purposeless. I felt stuck. I questioned everything: my faith, my marriage, my career—if it could be questioned, I doubted it. And I was completely clueless how to fix the funk. For over a year, I’ve been in the wilderness. I’ve wanted to find my way, but every path seemed like another dead end. The wilderness. I’ve been residing there. Not feeling fed. Not feeling heard. Not feeling seen. Struggling to find a purpose....

Keep Reading

And Then, the Darkness Lifts

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother with baby smiling

Today when I woke, it had lifted, like sunshine peeking after rain. And as my toddler clicked on the lamp beside my bed to see her mama, I saw me too. I got out of bed and I walked down the hall. And the coffee pot sat there waiting for me, as always, like my husband at the kitchen table with his books. He smiled at me, and I think he could tell as I took my medicine, took down a mug, and poured my coffee. I opened the secretary desk and pulled out the chair and my Bible, like...

Keep Reading

Joy in This Stillness

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding sleeping toddler, color photo

I woke up suddenly in a sweat while it was still dark. Except for the humming of the oxygen machine, the house was silent. For a moment, I thought I might have time to enjoy a cup of coffee before my son woke up. However, a glance at my daughter’s crib told me that feeding my caffeine addiction would have to wait. My daughter has a terminal brain disorder called Lissencephaly, a side effect of which is uncontrolled epilepsy. Many mornings, a subconscious recognition that she is having episodes of repeated seizures rouses me from my sleep. Throwing on a...

Keep Reading

Sometimes All We Can Do Is Say How Hard Motherhood Is

In: Faith, Motherhood
Tired mom with baby in foreground

I have been sitting in the peace and quiet of the office to do some long overdue Bible study for all of five minutes when the baby wakes up. With a heavy sigh that is becoming all too common, I go to the bedroom to pick up my fussy, probably getting sick, 8-month-old daughter who has been asleep for approximately 15 minutes. I bring her to the office and put her on the floor with some new books and toys. Sitting back down in front of my own new book of Bible maps and charts, I begin reading once again....

Keep Reading