So many thoughts crowd a heart and mind in the darkness and uncertainty of a hospital room. There are no visitors to say a prayer and wish you well. The unrelenting wrestling match between what is and what might be enters round number—what is it?—infinity it seems.
In the quiet solitude I pray the nurses will not enter and disturb my daughter’s precious sleep, for even as she groans, at least she is sleeping.
When she does awaken, it is with a start, calling for the nurse. She cries, partly out of hurt, more out of the desperation that comes in the darkness:
“Mama why does God allow this? There’s so much I want to do. I want to take care of children and help people. Why does God not stop this?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
Searching my heart and silently screaming to God to help me not to choke on my words but to say the right thing. What is the right thing? For in my own heart I am angry. I want to stomp my feet and clench my fists and demand an answer. Like a preschool child who cannot understand why I must eat my vegetables or pick up my toys. But I am not a child and this is not about toys.
So we pray, and she cries, and the hum of the IV continues. And, for a moment, she sleeps.
Our daughter began her journey with chronic kidney stones and autoimmune illness in the 5th grade. Together we waded through numerous hospitalizations and procedures. As her mom, I longed to pray the right prayer, find the right herbal remedy, or wish upon the right star to make it all go away.
I am a woman of faith. But nothing will test a Mom’s faith more than perceived unanswered prayer for her sick child.
While I try not to walk down a road of guilt, I have learned a few things from this journey, and I would have done many things differently.
Perhaps you have taken your first steps on a path you are praying is short and leads to healing. May I offer words of encouragement from one who has been there? Because even though my daughter is grown and married, I am still on this journey.
» I would have prayed more and searched less.
I took her healing into my own hands and spent countless hours doing research on the internet and asking medical professionals to give wisdom for the next step.
I prayed. But if I could somehow create a graph of the time spent praying and the time spent trying to figure it out for myself…
I put more faith in the internet and the next herbal tea than I did my Lord.
» I would open God’s word more and talk less.
While I had my own personal Bible reading and study, I did not include her. I told her what I learned, but I didn’t help her learn it herself. There is something deeply personal and special about discovering God’s promises one-on-one. I unknowingly stood between her and this treasure trove of grace.
Multitudes of Bible studies and devotions for teens are ours for the choosing. My first step would be to purchase a Bible using an easy-to-read translation. I would then locate a short study that would help her discover God’s promises for herself. If I could turn back time, we would do these studies together.
» I would pray more and wonder less.
We prayed together, but not as we should have. I honestly didn’t think this journey would take us where it did or last as long as it has. So our prayers were in-the-heat-of-the-moment prayers. We prayed when she got sick or her fever shot up. We prayed for the pain to go away. We prayed for successful procedures.
We did not pray together daily. I feel a loss in my soul that I cannot describe to you other than to say that I do so wish I had held her hands and prayed every day for understanding and grace to endure whatever the day might bring. To pray and thank God for His many blessings even in the midst of difficulties. To pray and ask God, together, for wisdom and obedience.
As I said, my daughter is grown and married now. It’s been difficult for me to step back from the role of caregiver. Seems I have been in that mode for so long it has become a part of me.
She still struggles. For whatever reason, God has allowed many things to continue to be her reality.
In spite of the places I feel I left too much lacking, God’s grace is evident all over her. She is an amazing, generous, hard-working young woman who can be defined by endurance.
So, here I am. In my comfy chair—writing—and thanking God for Who He is. And even as I bring this article to a close, the Holy Spirit speaks gently to my heart. He is telling me it’s not too late.
For even now, I can pray more and search less, open God’s word more and talk less, and pray more and wonder less. For the God who loves me most and best also loves my daughter most and best. My God can be trusted to work whether we understand it all or not.
So take heart, sweet Mama, as you care for your chronically ill child. Your Father loves you most and best.
And even in the cover of a dark night, He is near.
Shelley Pierce is a pastor’s wife, mom, grandma and the Director of Preschool and Children’s Ministries at Towering Oaks Baptist Church in Greeneville, Tennessee. The best part of living in the beautiful mountains of eastern Tennessee is getting to spend time with her husband, Tommy, and their amazing children and grandchildren.
Shelley worked for ten years as a contracted writer for LifeWay Childhood Ministries and is published in numerous devotion magazines and books. She is the author of The Wish I Wished Last Night, exciting new middle-grade fiction from Elk Lake Publishing. She also writes a monthly column in The Christian Online Magazine as well as a personal blog, shelleypaperbackwriter.blogspot.com.
Connect with Shelley on Twitter and Facebook.
4 thoughts on “Take Heart, Sweet Mama: Caring for a Child with Chronic Illness”
Shelley, opening your heart to share this message is an act of love. The post is sure to bless many!
Thank you, Jeannie. That is my prayer. God is always working!
Oh, Shelley. Your encouragement points are beautiful and thoughtful. Even though you wrote this from your experience with a child who suffered from a chronicle illness, your insight applies to many life circumstances. I am grateful for your words…for your heart. Blessings to you and your ‘baby’.
Thank you, Charla. I asked my daughter’s permission before sharing, knowing it is such a personal journey. She is precious and gracious and is thankful God continues to work to bring good. Just as He promised! Bless you, friend!