It is not always easy to see how God works all things together for good. Here is a very personal example of this that I wrote about in “God’s Best-Kept Secret” a while back.
Sometimes, however, Romans 8:28 and even verse 29 are not so obvious. For example, my twenty-five-year-old daughter, Bekah, was born with Down syndrome. Due largely to Ellen’s relentless work with her from the day of her birth, Bekah overcame all odds by eventually becoming a full-time student at the University of South Carolina in a special program. When she arrived, she was an outgoing, fun-loving young woman who absolutely loved college. It was the highlight of her life.
Suddenly, with only one semester left in her four-year program, she descended into a confused, pitiful shell of the person she had been. It erased most of the joyful, outgoing, dancing person we knew.
Why? Over two years ago, she developed a severe headache. This landed her in the emergency room, where our world blew up in a matter of minutes. While waiting for the doctor, Bekah had a complete psychotic breakdown. She fell to the floor, screaming as loud as she could, “Don’t hit me. Don’t hit me!” Ellen and I were horrified, wondering what in the world was causing her to hallucinate.
Bekah was quickly admitted to the hospital, where they performed every imaginable test to diagnose what was wrong. While there, she would tell us someone was under her bed. She tried to get up every few minutes to look under the bed, no matter how many times we attempted to convince her no one was there.
She also had other irrational fears. Because of this, she would sit on the floor behind her hospital room door, determined to stay there all night. She was in such a state of anxiety, the doctors had to give her mega doses of pain, anxiety, and sleep medications. This combination and doses of medicines would have knocked out two giant football players, but it didn’t work for Bekah. She sat there night after night. My wife and I felt very afraid of what we were seeing.
When he could find no organic reason for Bekah’s behavior, her psychiatrist chalked it up to months of sleep deprivation due to a traumatic event. He sent her home with psychiatric medication.
Over the next three months, Bekah saw fourteen different doctors, but we got no closer to a diagnosis than in the beginning. Yet her vitality and health were continuing to deteriorate. She was losing weight, becoming listless, and could no longer feed herself.
In desperation, we got Bekah an appointment with a neurologist at Duke University Medical Center, but we’d have to wait ten days to see him. During that time, she deteriorated so greatly that Ellen and I prayed she wouldn’t die before her appointment. It was absolutely terrifying.
At her appointment, the doctor told us he suspected an autoimmune disease was attacking her brain. He immediately admitted her to the hospital, telling us he was going to give her 1,000 mg of steroids intravenously every day. If she improved at all, it would prove his diagnosis. He proved to be correct.
Now, however, even after many other treatments with immunosuppressant drugs, Bekah is only 20 percent the person she used to be. She continues to be treated and has been prayed for by many people, but her brain has been so affected that this young woman who was once vibrant, loving, outgoing, and loved by everyone now sits on our couch all day, speaks nonsensical phrases, and sometimes screams at the top of her lungs when it’s time to go to bed.
As I write this book, we still do not know the end of this story. What we do know is that it has turned our entire family’s life upside down. We remain exhausted and emotionally vulnerable. Our hearts still feel sad many days, wondering where this is all going.
Though we trust God in all this, we don’t see Romans 8:28 for Bekah or our family. To be honest, I have to admit we haven’t appreciated people quoting this verse to us. It’s not what we have needed to hear. We’ve found the most help from people who have just loved us through it. That is what everyone needs when they are experiencing suffering, not someone quoting Romans 8:28.
Yet I want you to know we believe the message in Romans 8:28–29 is true. Whether people quote these verses to us inappropriately or whether we see it played out in this circumstance, it’s still true. It’s possible that we will never see what this trial means on this side of heaven, but I will say again that the message is true.
I will add this. These words in this book were written in the fiery crucible of this suffering. While numerous concerns, fears, and stresses have swirled around me and definitely affected me, when I have written, there has been a tangible sense of deep joy and intimacy with God. He’s still somehow involved in all of it.
© Mark Maulding, God’s Best-Kept Secret: Christianity Is Easier Than You Think, Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing, 2017