Broken worriers, brave warriors: Slaying the dragon of suffering

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Our eldest son, Cameron, was born blind

I had seen the dragon of suffering at a distance. Smelt the smoke when it spat fire on other people’s lives. But the first time it breathed ugly in my face was when our eldest son, Cameron, was born blind.

When I look back on the days and weeks following Cam’s diagnosis, they flash silent and disconnected like a slow-motion movie scene. People caught in an explosion. Screams but no soundtrack. Bodies smashed against glass. A shattering catching light.

My husband’s father-heart broke. (And he would have punched anyone who told him, ‘Jesus wants you for a sunbeam.’)

I was numb with fear.

We would have ripped out our own eyes if it would have made a difference to Cam. We couldn’t understand why God, who loves our son even more than we do, wouldn’t heal him. Our sweet tiny boy had done nothing to deserve this. Frankly, neither had we.

The prognosis was devastating. Cam endured batteries of blood tests, sonars and examinations under general anaesthetic. Each specialist had a different theory about the cause of the dense bilateral congenital cataracts and microphthalmia. Nothing was conclusive.

I had enjoyed a normal pregnancy and we had no reason – genetic or other – to expect a child with a physical disability.

The dragon had stalked us.

Swift ambush.

And suddenly, we were in the fray.

I felt shocked and unprepared. But when I looked down I saw that I was holding weapons. I hadn’t noticed them because up to then I hadn’t really needed them. Yet out of habit or instinct, I had kept them kind of polished. More-or-less sharp. God hadn’t thrust me clumsy into combat with brand new equipment. Quietly and consistently – for years – he’d been supplying the weapons I would need to survive this battle.

The weapons were all made of truth. But truth was more than my defence. It was also my doctor.

Because when this dragon’s claws ripped open my heart, I had to find the courage to get truth salve into the bleeding mess of raw flesh no matter how much it hurt. Without truth, infection would fester.

As a student, I read and re-read Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God. It cemented my belief that God is perfect in power, wisdom and love. Which was hard to believe when we faced the trauma of Cam’s condition. But because I had lived so long by this truth, it was my default. I knew somehow, still, that my God was almighty, all knowing, all loving. He wasn’t cruel or capricious or too busy attending to the universe – back turned on me for nine months while my baby boy grew. It couldn’t be so – no matter how much the dragon roared that God didn’t love us, that he was punishing us, that it was my fault, or that this was just a random act of the universe. I kept up the mantra in my head: perfect in power, perfect in wisdom, perfect in love.

So when debates raged around us in whispers – did a loving God allow this or did a sovereign God ordain it? – I didn’t need the answer.

For me it was two sides of the same coin. And God didn’t gamble. He hadn’t flipped that coin flippant to see how it would land. Cameron’s numbered days were all recorded before the first one dawned. God hadn’t taken his eyes off the eyes of my son. Not for a second.

I knew that ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ was the wrong question to ask. Because you and me and everyone? We’re not good people. We have a debilitating congenital sin defect and anything short of immediate judgement is pure grace on borrowed time. When Adam fell, he took creation with him. In this life we can’t shake off all the consequences of that cataclysm. The world is broken. Terrible things happen. Babies are born blind.

And it’s not fair.

But it’s true.

So the question to ask – resting and wrestling with the sure hope that God sees things we don’t and will judge the world with fairness and righteousness when he rolls up all of history in his glory – is not, ‘Why?’

The question is, ‘What now?’

I also knew that the answer to ‘What now?’ couldn’t be bought or Googled.

The answer was: ‘Start rock climbing.’

God’s Word became my means of scaling the cliff up and out of the dragon’s den. I found finger holds and toe hooks as I scrabbled sad and desperate from Genesis to Revelation. I stopped to rest in warm familiar hollows. Breathed the air and remembered the view from truths I had long loved. Gasped awestruck at old words made new because of where I found myself.

I hung on what Joseph said to his brothers – his betrayers: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.’

Yes. That. It looks bad. But God brings good where it’s impossible to see any.

Dalene Reyburn is a writer and speaker. She’s the author of Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires and The Next Right Prayer: daily hope for moms. She has a Master’s degree in Applied Language Studies. She and her husband have two sons and two golden retrievers. They live in Pretoria, South Africa, and there is often mud on their carpet.

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2017-09-22T00:54:37+00:00 August 22nd, 2016|Categories: Suffering, Testimony, Trusting God|Tags: , |3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Alison Ward August 23, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I love this article, Dalene! I love the way you write and thank you too for opening your heart to all of us. This is a scriptural answer to suffering from God’s perspective. The question really is, “What now?” Thank you for this perspective.

  2. Laura Kirsten August 24, 2016 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Dalene

    I just have to compliment you on this beautifully written blog. Your message is so powerful and I love your writing style. I wish you many blessings with your writing.

    Kind regards

    Laura Kirsten

  3. Cecily August 28, 2016 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you for telling your story, your words

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