Recently by 1 year old grandson was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. For two days I wept and prayed and sought God after being told by my RN wife that an enlarged heart was a serious condition. Physical maladies are beyond the human ability to overcome, so the only one to seek is the one who formed my grandson in the womb. Below is a Bible study/message I wrote while he was at a pediatric cardiologist in Huntsville last Monday. SPOILER: He is okay, but I didn’t know it at the time.

This study is intended to apply to many different situations AND a little insight into how to address unexpected life stresses:

Processing Uncertainty

This message is being written in the morning of October 26, 2015. My grandson, who just turned 1 last week, was diagnosed w/ an enlarged heart Saturday. He is being taken to a pediatric cardiologist for evaluation today. According to my wife Pam, who is an RN, this is a significant threat to his health from what I understand.The personal side of writing this is that my daughter had a severe case of preeclampsia… twice during her pregnancy. As a result the delivery was a month early by C-section. The physician ordered him not to be taken into public for six months (No Wal-Mart, Church, or family gatherings).

By God’s gracious providence, I have been without a church or employment and have been free to keep him while my daughter and son-in-law were at school and/or work.[1]So I have been graced to take care of my grandson at least four days a week for 9+ hours. I have a bond with him that is more than I expected AND thankful to God for. I could go into great detail about what that means, but at this point I have something more important I want to write.

I love that little guy. We’ve played for hours in the floor. I’ve watched him learn to turn over… skoot… crawl… stand… laugh… and now walk. I’ve fed him many times… changed many diapers… put him to sleep just as often… and was the first face he saw after waking from his twice a day naps.

Now it’s hard for me to look at his pictures. I had to change the wallpaper on my I-pad b/c I almost cried each time I opened it. I find my heart and mind drawn to him. Because… in all honesty, from what I’m told… this could be a very serious situation.

By nature I tend to think through the worst possible scenarios. I can’t help it. I’m just wired that way. So I stay mostly quiet because I don’t want to be a negative influence on anyone else early in situations. I wish I was more like my sweet wife who finds the good potentials in situations, but I’m not.

For the last few days I couldn’t help but “go there.” I haven’t been able to embrace the “best possible situation” which I guess shows a lack of faith to some degree. After all… I did write a book about this kind of thing! I wrote several chapters about how to “Dance In The Dungeon,” yet here I am doing anything but dancing…

So I have retreated to the one thing I think I know best… processing life in terms of who God is. Listening for God’s voice while I see a storm potentially coming toward the Dodson and Ethridge family. Fleeing to the only person who I know as “The God of comfort.”[2]

What follows from this point is a purposeful setting aside of my fears and anxieties for the purpose of standing on the rock of Jehovah God… Jehovah Jira (The God who provides)… His Son Jesus Christ… and the Holy Spirit. Knowing that it is possible for the future to be up and down with highs and lows from the human perspective… but also a way to glorify God as He gives us strength. What follows is not necessarily in a logical or sequential progression, but reflections as they come to me.

If anyone knows what it is like to lose their first born son, it is God Himself.[3] And just as He had a purpose for HIS son to go through what all happened to Him, I am confident that God has just as great a plan for whatever will result for my daughter and Son-in-law with their son… my grandson.

As Tim Keller said once, “Just because we don’t see how something can be good doesn’t mean it isn’t good.” I will try to unpack that as best I can below.

Because of how I’m wired, I first want to “go there” and work up from there. Thus what is written in Isaiah 57:1…

The righteous man perishes, & no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity

This passage is talking about tragic, unexpected, untimely death. It is referring to an “innocent” or “good” person being taken from this world in a way that shocks those associated with them. I first found this verse early in my ministry when an 18 year old died in his sleep and the cause was never found. But it is the last phrase I want to focus on… “Is taken away from calamity…”

God is all knowing and wise. He is always loving, gracious, and merciful. In everything He does He glorifies His name. Thus EVERYTHING He does is good… right… and best… regardless of my (Our) view, understanding, or perspective. And this includes what is happing with my grandson.

According to the eternal true word of God, when He decides to take an “innocent,” good person, or child (As with my little brother at six hours old)… there is ALWAYS a good reason He knows which we are not aware of and cannot know. There is something worse He is sparing them from that we cannot comprehend. By bringing them to His side, He is sparing them something much worse than if they had lived.

Now, since I choose to believe and trust God… though the pain may be difficult for me… I MUCH rather my loved one to be spared what would be worse IF God so chooses that to be best. This is a conscious decision that I must choose based on my knowledge of who God is in accordance with His love, mercy, grace, and kindness. I will choose to believe God because of Pr 3:5“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

“Not leaning on my own understanding” led me to what Job wrote. You remember that God prodded Satan about him in Job 1:8, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

As a result of this prodding, God allowed Satan into Job’s life to kill his seven children, take his wealth, and inflict him physically (Read Job 1-2). And what were Job’s responses early on?

Job 1:21 The Lord gave, & the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Job 13:15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him…

All this is true, BUT… but I need strength, help, comfort, and help still. Thus…

God Himself provides the help I desire… in the best way possible. The Holy Spirit Himself is praying for my grandson, daughter, Son-in-law, me, and everyone else in this event as it unfolds. This is found in Ro 8:26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us w/ groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, b/c the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Truth is I am praying selfishly… I don’t mean to and don’t realize it… but I do none the less. I want my grandson healed… but that may not be best IF Isaiah 57:1[4] is true (And it is). If there is something God is sparing my grandson from… that I’m not aware of… how selfish is it of me to pray contrary to God’s will?! And thus the reason the Holy Spirit modifies (?) my prayers so that they conform to God’s perfect will for my grandson… daughter… Son-in-law… and family as a whole.

What I must do is embrace God’s truth as found in Scripture so as to overrule my heart and emotions. With that being my conscious choice, there are three passages of particular interest to me give the situation I’ve been describing. The first and most important is Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus said…

Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, & learn from me, for I am gentle & lowly in heart, & you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, & my burden is light.

For me, I have decided to take God (Jesus) at His word. I have chosen to believe Him. I have chosen to accept what He has said as all I need. I trust that whatever He wills is perfect, good, best, and loving. Regardless of what the future holds, I will love God… worship, praise, and glorify Him! No matter what it is… God is glorifying His name and that is more important than anything else!

Then I am drawn to Philippians 4:6-7… which was the basis for the first message I ever delivered to God’s people. There Paul wrote…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer & supplication w/ thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all u’tanding, will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus.

Every time I read this, I can’t help but remember that the man who wrote it was not living in an ivory tower. He knew the realities of pain, uncertainty, & difficulty in life. As he wrote 2 Cor 11:23-30

With far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, & often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night & a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers… robbers… my own people… from Gentiles… in the city… in the wilderness… at sea… from false brothers; 27 in toil & hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger & thirst, often w/out food, in cold & exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, & I am not weak? Who is made to fall, & I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

2 Cor 12:7 To keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8  Three times I pleaded w/ the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content w/ weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, & calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

ASIDE: I just got a call from my daughter who took my grandson to a pediatric cardiologist in H’ville. The evaluation of the specialist is that his heart is normal… not enlarged. (Pick up writing two days later). Honestly… I cried, thanked, & praised God. My anxiety level went down from what I felt as I wrote (And believed) what was previously written in the midst of my g’son’s enlarged heart. But I want to keep writing what I had planned to write… if I am able to continue the thoughts I had…

RETURN: In the midst of the possibility of my g’son dying, I thought of how Kind David handled a somewhat similar situation. You remember God told David his baby son would die b/c he committed adultery & murder… which gave others reason to defame God’s name. David fasted & prayed for healing… but the child died. Then it is recorded in 2 Sam 12:18-23

On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, & he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David u’stood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth & washed & anointed himself & changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord & worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, & he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted & wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose & ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted & wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

This passage confirms God’s saves infants who die.[5] Prior to this situation I have taken great comfort in this passage because my little brother died a few hours after he was born… yet still there is a personal need for encouragement and strength in the midst of unexpected stress. Thus 1 Pet 5:6…

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Humble yourself… this means submitting to God’s perfect will, regardless of what it is… joyfully. The point is to confess & agree that God DOES what is loving, best, & right in every situation. Which for me include the ultimate outcome for my grandson.

Casting all you anxieties on Him… Which means that I verbalize all my concerns, worries, and anxieties on Christ. I send all the emotion of the moment/event to the only one who can actually do something about my concern… God Himself, the creator of the universe.

After you have suffered a little while… The stress will end. The hardship will come to a close. The suffering won’t last for a lifetime or forever. What comes after is joy, peace, rest, and contentment… thus “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Yes, today my grandson is healthy. But who knows what tomorrow will hold for him… my mom… my wife… my kids or in-laws… or any of 1,000 other situations? My desire is to drive God’s truth deep into my heart and soul for in all things at all times GOD IS GOOD.

Thus I will trust Him. I will believe Him. I will love Him. No matter what, who, when, or where. As it was written by John Newton: “What you will. When you will. As you will.”

[1] He has been dropped off at 6:30 AM and picked up each day around 4:00 PM.

[2] 2 Cor 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.”

[3] Heb 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been (tested) as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

[4] “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity…”

[5] The death of infants who are therefore saved confirms the way Rev 7:9-10 is fulfilled. It is written, “After this I looked, & behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes & peoples & languages, standing before the throne & before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 & crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, & to the Lamb!”