Life hasn't been easy since becoming a parent over a decade ago. In fact, it's been very, very challenging. Yet, I still have faith in the goodness of God and consider myself a Christian.
My faith in God was strong when my husband and I were looking forward to the birth of our first child. At that time, I would have described myself as a very carefree, optimistic, and joyful person.
When Jaycee was born, I was 25 years old, and it would be my first big crisis of belief. I was expecting to deliver a healthy baby girl and return back at my job in a school a couple of months later. But that isn't what happened.
Instead, Jaycee was born and sent straight to the NICU for 10 days. She was diagnosed with Down syndrome, AV canal heart defect, pulmonary hypertension, and congestive heart failure before we left the hospital. I came home with a baby who needed intensive care, lots of medications, and an open heart surgery.
Having a child with a life threatening condition made me a mess. At the same time, I was also hopeful. I know it doesn't make sense. In the beginning there was faith inside of me that rose up. I prayed, spoke scriptures, and even fasted over her. I leaned upon some of that optimism that came naturally. At the same time, depression started to creep in. This feeling was new to me, and I didn't recognize it right away. I was overwhelmed and shocked by my baby's diagnoses and sudden turn of events that came in my life.
Over the course of a few months into this battle for my child's health, I became a depressed Christian. Some people may think that's impossible, but I can tell you that it is possible to love God and believe in Jesus but to be sad from an event in your life that spirals you down further than you ever anticipated. Is it Godly or right? No. But, you can have very big doubts while you try to do life.
Jaycee's first year of life left me with more questions and worries than faith. During that year, she had an open heart surgery followed by 3 months of oxygen use at home. She failed a hearing test prompting talk of tubes. She started wheezing when she was sick and asthma began being discussed. Her eyes started to turn in and cross which meant seeing another specialist who talked about a surgery in her future. Her developmental delays required home therapies every week. It seemed like every time we turned around; we got bad news.
Any hope I had in God when Jaycee was born was gone by the time she was a year old. I was worn out in every way and my relationship with God suffered. It wasn't a conscious decision I made. It was a slow process of allowing negative thoughts and doubts to infiltrate my thinking and crush any faith. I also doubted the effectiveness of my prayers. Therefore, they became shorter and shorter and done less and less often.
There were questions I had that didn't seem to have any answers for. I couldn't find justice in our situation. I cried to God about my daughter's health with seemingly no response and no miracles.
I continued my Christianity by reading scriptures, going to church, and trying to love God through so many immense emotional and mental struggles. I waited for things to get better. I waited for Jaycee's health to improve. I waited for me to see something happen in her life to know that God was still working in our lives or that He cared.
What can I say? I wanted things to be easier for me and the rest of my family as proof God was with us. But, that hasn't been the case. Struggles have continued over the years. The events the played out after Jaycee's first year of life until now are too much and too long to explain in one post. Here's a sampling of some things we have parented Jaycee through: 20 something hospital admissions for illness/emergencies, 3 heart caths, 2 open heart surgeries, daily medications, bi-pap at night for 8 years, respiratory distress at home, helicopter transports, etc.
Here's what I want you to understand. Life hasn't gotten magically better for my daughter. She hasn't become verbal enough to speak in sentences. She hasn't gotten off her medications. There aren't less doctors involved in her care. She hasn't stopped having scary health emergencies although they are becoming less frequent. The respiratory problems haven't been outgrown. She can't get rid of the medical equipment in her room. There wasn't a "miracle" in any of these areas, but we have seen God's hand on her life in times of serious illness and other situations. I realized the proof of God I wanted came in other ways, not just "healthy" times.
Despite all of this, my relationship with God is strong. After struggling for awhile when Jaycee was younger without exactly knowing how to pull out of the place of shaky faith I found myself, I changed. I transitioned from a struggling Christian to a Christian with a renewed love and heart for God and her life. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was really hard at first. But it became easier. I believed the things I originally felt about God, and prayed with the faith that God did listen and hear. Something changed in my heart.
Have you been struggling? Here's my advice on how to rekindle your faith while your circumstances are challenging.
- Connect with God. I kept going to church and reading the Bible even when it was hard. Faith for me some weeks was just showing up at church saying, "God, I believe in you even if I don't understand my life right now." Other times, I read a chapter looking for anything that would speak into my situation. I still tried to show a commitment in some way.
- Continue to pray. Here's where I messed up. I started to believe the thoughts from the enemy which said my prayers were pointless. But, prayer is always the key! I wish I would have recited the Lord's Prayer if nothing else to keep the habit. Whether you believe God is hearing or not, pray through it.
- Find a friend who listens. This is hard when you're struggling. You believe no one will understand or no one has gone through what you have. You may know no one in your situation, but I hope you know someone with faith. That's all you need, someone with ears and faith. Maybe you tried to open up to someone and that ended badly. Try someone else. Isolation is not good! Find a friend who will listen and give Godly counsel when you are struggling. Keeping your doubts to yourself with only allow them to get bigger and stronger.
- Focus on the good things. There has to be SOMETHING good that has happened in life. Maybe you made it through the day without getting emotional. Perhaps someone took time to mail you a card. Maybe you got 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes, you have to be grateful for the little things and celebrate the small stuff. When life is hard, it is nearly impossible to find something positive. Find something everyday to be thankful. If your ratio of complaints far exceeds your thankfulness, then you need fresh eyes for your circumstances.
- Be patient. I know some days will be tough. You may feel like staying in bed all day or giving up on your responsibilities. Don't beat yourself up if you had a day full of anxiety or tears. Have patience with yourself but don't allow yourself to stay in an unhealthy emotional place. You deserve better than that.
There is hope in life. Even when things don't turn out the way you prayed, God is still God. Without faith, we have nothing, so fight to keep yours if life is trying to steal it away. Blessings!