The testimony below is one of God’s sustaining grace in times of unfathomable sorrow. I know you will be blessed to know Stacey’s story.
There is a story in the Bible telling of a man desperate for his son to healed. When he meets Jesus, Jesus tells him, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” The man humbly replies, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9: 23-24). This passage, one of my favorites, is a picture of my Christian walk which began twenty-nine years ago.
Dr. Lew, a survivor of the holocaust and former rabbi, led a small mission in Southfield, Michigan. My dad, who had been raised Christian, had started going to the mission on Friday nights; he tried to convince my Jewish mother to go too, but she wasn’t interested. Since I strongly sensed God’s presence in my life and yet did not know how to please Him, I joined my dad. I remember Dr. Lew asking if I wanted to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sin. At thirteen, I stood in front of a small crowd to declare my need for Jesus – a decision I have never regretted.
Years later I found myself living my dreams — wife to a devoted husband and mother to three exceptional children. Even with the birth of our second child, Alisha, who came into this world with multiple severe physical and mental challenges, I embraced my calling in life. I loved my family, my roles, and the challenges which allowed me to daily call on God. I really believed I was living and working out my salvation. Daily starting my day with quiet time and prayer, driving my children to their Christian school, serving in the special needs community and fellowshipping at church and with our couples’ small group gave me a sense I was doing things “right.”
And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things — I do believe God desires my full participation, obedience and attention in His kingdom work. However, living a formula never leads to an authentic relationship with God, which brings me to the “unbelieving” part of my journey.
Fall of 2002, our eleven year old son Kodey, grew increasingly ill from what seemed to be a typical virus. After several trips to the pediatrician with no answers and my usually active boy growing anxious and sicker, I found myself in an emergency room weakly convincing him he would perk up after a few hours of intravenous fluids. Several tests and hours later, my doubts crept in, this virus was not typical. An EKG revealed Kodey’s heart was beating erratically. Blurs of unfamiliar people filled the room. A nurse asked me if she could call someone for me and for a brief moment, I snapped back to reality to make the call to my husband telling him to meet us in intensive care.
A cardiac team worked all night trying to stabilize Kodey’s heart. A life support machine kept him alive while we waited for his heart to respond. We were told to think about a heart transplant.
Days went by, I felt further and further from God. I couldn’t even find words, except for “please, heal him.” Confused by the reality I found our family in, I began pleading for answers. I thought caring for a disabled child was enough on anyone’s plate.
People all over the country were praying for Kodey, and I felt encouraged by their prayers. But after three days on life-support, Kodey sustained a massive brain stroke. All hope of a transplant vanished as did my encouragement. God’s plan seemed cruel and wrong.
After three more days of tests and evaluations, not one doctor gave us any hope for his heart to be restored. The inevitable choice lay in front of us: disconnect life-support. On October 17, 2002 we said our earthly goodbye to our precious son.
The next years were a painful immersion into the journey of grief with God. It took deliberate steps to enter the pain of loss and admit my anger with God, but doing so presented opportunity to be transformed from a listless existence to one of hope. Boldly I sought God in my pain. It felt like I placed my naked, beaten body at His feet and said, “Now what do you want to do to me?” Deepening my relationship with Jesus required transparency, surrender, and an obedience born out of His love for me.
Four years had passed since Kodey’s death when our daughter Alisha required spinal fusion surgery. We knew the surgery might require time in the intensive care unit, and the thought of returning to the place where Kodey died brought enormous anxiety and depression. Fervently I prayed for God to spare all of us from going there. The day of surgery went incredibly well, Alisha escaped a stay in intensive care and I sang God’s praises for remembering us! However, twenty-four hours later Alisha exhibited respiratory difficulties. Hospital staff worked to alleviate her new symptoms but could not stop the progression of the mysterious downturn. Before we knew what was happening, intensive care doctors arrived on the scene to escort her rapidly to the unit. My husband and I, unbelieving, followed the team to the ICU floor, to the exact same pod, and the exact same bed where our son died. We were then asked to step into the exact same consultation room to wait while doctors tried to save our daughter’s life.
The surreal moment brought only one clear thought which I verbalized to my husband, “God is going to heal her. That is the only reason God allowed this.” We were paused for hours to know if this would be the reality. A doctor finally opened the door to joyfully inform us Alisha would live. He expressed personal confusion as to how five life-threatening conditions suddenly developed while we sat in the hospital. The answer to that never was fully uncovered but something else was for me.
God revealed to me that day that He remembers us in our pain, and that to further His kingdom, He works far beyond our understanding. His message to me was, “I remember how painful this place was, but I need to place you back here to save your sweet girl.” That day he graciously allowed me to see a glimpse into the bigger picture, while restoring my trust. I am so thankful that He never asks us to get it “right” in order for Him to show up.
I will never control or know the outcomes of life, yet I am called to trust God in all circumstances. More heartaches are inevitable, and I have not conquered once and for all this collision of belief and unbelief. Praise God the invitation to engage my Savior and Lord always stands.