Beauty wrapped in pain and brokenness


The moment was almost surreal as I listened to the doctor’s words

There are risks with this surgery . . . your husband can die, and we have to inform you of the possibility of brain damage.

I remained calm on the outside, but not on the inside. “Please God, don’t let Paul die,” I prayed over the long ten-month period as we awaited surgery.

There are times in our lives when we are confronted with harsh realities

We wish we could run or hide from them, but we can’t. The doctor’s had discovered that Paul had a 5.6 cm wide aneurysm on his rising aorta—the challenge was that the aneurysm went past the junction to the carotid artery to his brain, which was why there was a high risk of brain damage.

The day of surgery arrived

Fifteen hours was designated for Paul’s surgery. The surgeon said to us,

This is a big one . . . in fact, after a heart transplant this is the most invasive surgery we do.

I have to say his words did not comfort me. But, what distressed me most was when he told us that they placed Paul in ice and then, ‘Turned him off,’ while they replaced his aortic valve and cut out the aneurysm replacing it with a whole new aortic piece.

I remember Paul asking, “What do you mean by ‘turn me off’?”

The doctor looked at him and said, “Well, let me see . . . we . . . um.”

Paul, realizing the surgeon was struggling to find the right words said, “You mean, you kill me!”

The doctor replied, “That is one way of putting it!”

Afraid but trusting God

I was up most of the night before surgery and went across to Paul’s room early the next morning. He was sleepy from the tablets he had been given the night before, but he smiled when he saw me and we held hands and prayed. As they wheeled Paul to theater, I walked alongside him and then kissed him goodbye at the door.

Never have I felt so alone, scared, vulnerable and broken!

Feeling alone but knowing God was there

After hours of waiting I was able to go and see Paul. I sat beside his bed and tears rolled down my cheeks . . . I couldn’t stop crying. He looked so weak lying there with a breathing tube down his throat.

The nurse looked at me and said, “You have never been in an ICU ward before have you?” I replied that I had sat in Trauma ICU for 28 days with my son, but I was not alone because Paul and I went through that crisis together. I was going through this crisis in a different way! But God was walking with me.

Beauty wrapped in pain

Eight days later, Paul was released from the hospital. He was weak, frail and scarred. But, he was alive!  I saw beauty in a way I had not seen it before. Beneath the ugly, painful surgical scar was beauty. Paul was alive. His body would bear scars forever, but beneath the wrapping of pain and brokenness was beauty.

  • The beauty of another day to live with him.
  • The chance to see another sunrise together and enjoy the world God had created.
  • We could dream of grandchildren and many more years to live together and serve Jesus.

What an incredible gift, rare beauty!

Finding beauty beneath the wrapping

Sometimes beauty can surprise us because it is wrapped in a way that we could never anticipate. We love beautiful wrappings, but many times what lies beneath the wrapping is not beautiful at all. However, beneath the sometimes-ugly layers of pain and brokenness you discover pure, unadulterated beauty!

Paul, Carol, their children, grandchildren and parents

Paul, Carol, their children, grandchildren and parents

Looking for beauty in the wrong places

As human beings we can be fickle. How sad it is when a person gets tired of their spouse because their body is no longer youthful and their face is lined with age. They discard their spouse in search of youth, beauty and excitement.

If only they would peel back the layers, the wrapping, and discover the depth of beauty in that aged body—the person that stood with them through the agonizing, challenging and joyful years of life. But they look for beauty elsewhere, and often find that beneath the beautiful new wrapping is something significantly inferior in worth to what they had before!

Living with thankfulness

I now see beauty in places I never did before. I find beauty in some of the oldest and most weathered faces! I see the immense beauty in my family, with all their scars and imperfections they are simply beautiful.

And every day, snow, rain or sunshine, I rise and say, “Another beautiful day! Thank you Jesus!”

Carol is married to Paul and they have two wonderful children and two grandchildren. She has lived on four continents, traveled to over 50 countries and preached in most of them. She is passionate about Jesus and His Kingdom and has just published her memoir, Wild Hope. She has a PhD in practical theology and currently serves as Director of the Graduate School at Trinity Bible College, North Dakota.



  1. Shann de Smidt November 15, 2014 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    This article touched deeply into my heart. Thank you Carol for sharing the little details of how you faced this reality with such grace and trust in God. It is inspiring.

    • carol November 16, 2014 at 12:15 am - Reply

      Shann thanks for sharing! It always amazes me at how God is in each of the details of our lives. I am profoundly thankful for His faithfulness through all the seasons of my life.

      Every blessing to you,

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