Cancer. At first we thought it was a temporary problem, perhaps a herniated disc. My husband had been playing “Mr. Fix-it” under a kitchen sink, and he was experiencing pain in his lower back.
The unexpected collapse of his spinal column occurred one evening when he was alone with our two children. Charles was still in diapers, only ten months old. Pete reached into the baby’s crib to lift him out and fell to the ground with the baby in his arms. Charles was unharmed, but our lives were never the same again.
Pete was in agonizing pain and could not get off the floor. My five-year-old Noelle saw to the baby and attended her daddy as well as a five-year-old could. This was before we had cell phones, and it was hours before I returned from my meeting to discover what had happened to my family.
Pete was like most men. He thought he would just “tough it out.” There was no reason to go to the doctor—right? This pain would go away and he would get better on his own. Bodies heal themselves. God made them that way.
Sometimes, but not so for Pete. It took three weeks before I could convince him to go to the doctor. During that time, he was on the floor. I dragged a mattress into the living room for him to lie on because he could not stand or even make it to the bathroom. The world turned upside down.
Tenacious Pete. That he was. It was the reason he had been so successful in his career designing automotive interiors for General Motors, but it was not helping this situation. He said he would not eat because he did not want to have to go to the bathroom, but the days wore on.
Finally I convinced him to at least go to a chiropractor. He was in such pain that it took a half an hour and all the tenacity he could muster to get from the house to the car, only a few feet away.
X-rays indicated spinal degeneration. We did not know exactly what that meant, but it did not sound good.
Upon receiving the diagnosis, Pete opted for a program of physical therapy treatment. A visiting nurse came to our home for a preliminary evaluation. Part of the enrollment included a blood sample, which resulted in a call early the next morning advising us to proceed immediately to the hospital. There was something seriously wrong with his blood count and platelets.
The diagnosis was made: cancer. The prognosis was harsh: two weeks.
I am so thankful God intervened and gave us an entire year. Many challenges presented themselves throughout that time. Physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual rollercoaster rides ensued. But God saw us through every step of the way.
In the beginning, just four days prior to the spinal collapse, God gave me a vivid dream that woke me from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. I sat up in bed startled and shaken as I remembered the details.
Pete and I were traveling up a steep mountain on a one-way road. It was an abstract, treacherous thing with no side rails, and along the way Pete began having pain. It increased to the point that I switched places with him while we continued driving upwards. There was no place to stop or turn around so I drove on as his pain increased.
Oh, God, You have to get us off this mountain, I prayed and then I saw a wall of greenery in front of me. There was no way to know what was on the other side, but the Lord wanted me to trust Him and drive through it. There was no cliff. There was no boulder. It was the pathway down the mountain, and I took it safely to the bottom where I stopped the van and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
But as the tension released and my heart rate slowed, I looked to the passenger seat to see my Petey was gone. God had seen me safely down the mountain, but my husband was no longer with me.
Through the dream, the Lord prepared me for what was to come then He faithfully walked beside us on our journey. All the way, He told me to trust Him.
As the pieces of my life swirled about me, not knowing where they would land, I learned to trust God in a newer dimension. It was like living in the eye of a hurricane—a place of calm in the midst of a devastating storm.
Pete was “inpatient” for over one hundred days that year, and the drive to the hospital took almost an hour. As I drove back and forth, the Lord gave me a song to sing that prepared me on the way there and kept me on the return trip home.
There is peace in the middle of the storm
Though the wind blows hard and long
In the dark of the night
Your Word’s my guiding light
And I’ll have peace in the middle of my storm.
You know it’s a divine strength that sustains you when you walk through this kind of valley. I never imagined being a widow at thirty-two with two small children to care for on my own but through it all, I “laid my head upon His chest,” and the Lord sustained me.
At the funeral, our church choir sang “Trust in the Lord with all of thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path.” The choir director selected the song. I had not requested anything in particular, and it was the perfect choice. My trust in God saw me through that difficult year, and continued to do so in the days to come.
The backing of a quilt is solid. It doesn’t change. It’s not pieced together, but strong. The backing of our life’s quilt is our foundational trust in God. No matter what the top design looks like, it’s the backing—our trust in God—that gives stability and strength.
As you face the unique challenges of your life, place your trust in God’s hands. There is no safer place, and He can keep your heart at peace even as the storms of life swirl about you.
Lori Wagner is a gifted communicator and teacher. You may visit her Web site at www.affirmingfaith.com.
Reprinted with persmission from Reflections Magazine.