A big thank you to Amy Mullis who wrote this devotional!
Four years ago, I met this incredible kid on a weekend retreat at a Christian camp in the mountains. Clay was zip lining into a cold mountain pond, and I was stationed to manage his harnessing. Clay went down the first time, squealing in sheer joy all the way! After splashing into the water, the corners of his mouth were meeting his ears as he widely smiled and laughed. He walked back to the top of the zip line to go again. As he was trekking up, I thought:
"Wow, the water must be extra cold today - this kid looks like he is freezing."
This was a common situation. The small mountain pond was always cold, even in the middle of the summer heat. Clay harnessed to the zip line for the second time, and in utter bliss, the 14-year-old jumped off the deck and glided through the air toward the water. As Clay walked up the hill to go for a third time, I did a double take. His lips were blue and purple and his skin looked as if it was translucent!
"Are you okay? What is going on? Here, take this towel! Is the water too cold? It is only August, but the water must be freezing!"
All of this came tumbling out of my mouth in only five seconds, it seemed.
Clay took the towel and chuckled under his breath, "I have a heart defect. But it's OK. Zip lining was fun while it lasted."
Just then, one of Clay's group leaders walked up with a large smile on his face and admonished:
"Clay, go get a shower and warm up!"
As Clay walked away, the leader explained that Clay's heart was not very strong, so he was not supposed to be zip lining or doing other sports. The leader smiled and continued:
"But Clay is full of life, and he just won't listen. He has a zest for everything he puts his mind to, and he will not let his heart stop him."
In January 2017, Clay finally received the call - his new heart was ready for him! His transplant journey was about to begin. I began to pray for him as he prepared for the surgery.
"Thank you, Lord, for your provision and your timing! You have Clay in the palm of your hand, and I thank you for this opportunity you have provided!"
"Lord, as Clay goes into surgery, please heal his body. Let his new heart be powerful, strong and received well in his body."
Clay received the new heart, and the surgery seemed to go well with no major complications. My prayers continued.
"Father, thank you for this answered prayer. Please continue to heal his body from surgery and give him strength."
A few days after surgery, a minor complication arose. His pressures were not stabilizing as his body was trying to adjust to his new heart.
"Lord, please heal Clay's body. Please give his new heart strength, and please heal his weak body so his new heart has a stable setting."
A week had gone by and complications continued to rise. Two weeks ... more complications. Three weeks ... even more.
"Lord, I trust that Clay is in the palm of your righteous hand; Lord you are the only Healer. Please heal his sickly body. Heal the infections, heal the weakness within his organs, heal the new heart. Lord, please breathe life into Clay's lungs."
After more than a month of pleading with God to heal this beautiful child and of making multiple trips to the hospital to encourage his parents and brothers, I received the news that Clay was no longer with us. His body had not and was not going to heal from the trauma of surgery. Clay met Jesus face-to-face.
Weeks went by and my prayers continued, except they had changed.
"Lord, why? Why take this child who exemplified your peace, joy, love and passion for the gospel so soon? You could have used him on this earth to further your kingdom. This testimony you gave him could have been triumph over trial. Why?"
Counselors say that grief is a five-stage process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I now understand this process in ways that I wish I didn't. After more weeks passed, I uttered quite a few more angry prayers. I was speaking to a dear friend when it finally dawned on my selfish heart: God did answer my prayers.
God healed Clay. God strengthened his heart and his body. God did breathe life into Clay's lungs. God accomplished all of these things in a way that I was not prepared for, but he accomplished them nonetheless. God was faithful, even when the news was grim. God restored Clay's broken body to become a perfect heavenly body, and now Clay is at peace with his Creator.
I am reminded over and over again that I do not see the full picture of our earthly dwelling place; I have only a very small vantage point. John writes in 1 John 5:13-15 that when we believe, pray and ask in the will of the Lord, he hears our prayers and responds according to his divine will.
What I often forget is the first part: When we ask in HIS will, he responds. He responds not out of obligation because we asked, but because of our obedience, faith and trust that our Lord is sovereign. When asking for the Lord to heal Clay's body, I failed to see that the Lord who created him had a different and far better plan. Even though his plan causes pain to those of us still on earth, I know that Clay's life was purpose-filled because God promises in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for the good of those who love him.
The knowledge of God's goodness does not wipe away the sadness of losing a dear friend, but the grief is now mixed with hopeful anticipation of knowing the Lord's plan is greater than mine. I still have to remind myself that I do not see the full picture and that I won't on this side of eternity, but my trust is in the one who holds eternity in the palm of his hand.
- Recall a time when God's plan wasn't your plan. What was your reaction?
- How do you remind yourself of God's sovereignty when it is difficult to see his plan?
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