By Ross Engel –
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
I’m not sure how Abraham could do it. I doubt that I could! God’s Word had promised him that he would be the father of many nations and that he would have descendants more numerous than the sands on the seashore or the stars in the sky. Then that same Word of God comes and tells him to offer up his son Isaac, the son of the promise, as a sacrifice! He saddles his donkey, piles the wood on his son’s shoulders, and climbs the mountain to follow through with God’s command. What faith! What trust in God’s Word of promise to be just a knife thrust away from sacrificing his beloved son! His faith in God is credited to him as righteousness. God intervenes, spares the son, and provides a ram for the sacrifice.
Tomorrow, my son, James, turns one. He is my only son—the youngest child of three. I have great love for all three of my children, but there is something about the relationship between a father and son, even this early on, that is just indescribable. My heart swells with fatherly pride as I look at my little guy and all his dapper and jaunty outfits and his ever present toothy grin. It’s hard not to smile when he smiles at me or excitedly waves his arms saying, “DaDa.” I know a lot of family pressure rides on his shoulders; he’s the only boy in the Engel family (thus far), and so the expectation is that one day he will pass on the Engel name—someday, many, many years from now!
It has been a joyous year, but it hasn’t been an easy one for little James or his family. Last December, he was hospitalized with RSV, which had also caused severe dehydration. He was in rough shape. Inconsolable and hooked up to an IV and a breathing mask, it was hard to stomach. I recall falling apart on the phone when I talked to my dad as I conveyed to him the doctor’s words, “We need to get him stronger so that he has a better chance of surviving this.” I spent a lot of time praying during the time that he was hospitalized. Time seemed to stand still for those days, and I know that my prayers didn’t convey an unshakeable faith like Abraham’s. I may have even tried bargaining with God.
James got better. He bounced back to his normal self and we all rejoiced. Prayers had been answered! Life was good.
That is, until we saw the bruise. Well, we thought it was a bruise. The first time I saw the mark, I thought that it was the imprint of my hands on his side (from playing airplane and flying him around the house). I was horrified! This mark stretched from the midline of his stomach to the midline of his back, from his belly button to his chest, and it wasn’t going away. It wasn’t a bruise. Our pediatrician called it a “café au lait” mark, and she sent us to specialist after specialist to get us some answers. We saw a Pediatric Ear, Nose, and Throat, a Pediatric Dermatologist, a Pediatric Neurologist, and a Pediatric Hematologist (someone had to do those pesky blood draws). We finally stopped seeing all these specialists when they mentioned Pediatric Endocrinologist. Enough was enough!
My wife and I were exhausted. I know we were praying a lot more than usual. Sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms were good places to do that. We found ourselves wishing that Dr. House and his team of experts were real people, not just a TV show, because maybe if they were, we could get some real answers!
The mark will be there for the rest of James’ life; that’s about the only thing we have any certainty about right now. If you saw it, you’d immediately understand why it’s called a café au lait spot. It looks like coffee with milk—lots of milk. The consensus is that it will most likely end up being nothing but a mark; that’s the best case scenario. But we’re supposed to watch for other specific symptoms that could show up at any time. We learned from the specialists that the mark could be the first marker of something more severe and they gave us the name of two potential ailments that could one day surface. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we now know more about both of these rare conditions than we ever wanted to know. And thanks to the doctors, we find ourselves in a holding pattern. Watching. Waiting. Praying.
In the midst of all this, it has been a tremendous comfort to know that God hears every cry, every groan, and every word of anguish from His people. My wife and I have been praying a lot this year for our son. At times, we may have questioned whether our prayers were being heard by God and whether He was answering us or not. It seems as though God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that His children might question whether He’d be listening to their prayers in their times of need. Scripture is filled with gentle and pointed reminders, not only of God’s presence with us through all things (He promises never to leave us or forsake us), but also that He, as our loving heavenly Father hears our prayers and answers them, giving us the things that He knows to be best!
Jesus says it in both Matthew and Luke’s Gospel, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” – Matthew 7:7-11
Though, it is the words of King David that I have found the most comforting as of late, especially when it seemed as though the walls of illness or even death were closing in and when the terrors associated with the changes and chances of life seemed to be surrounding and confronting me. Perhaps they will serve as words of hope for you in whatever situations you might find yourself in.
The cords of death encompassed me,
And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.
The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. – Psalm 18:4-6