There are times when life doesn’t make sense, when pain is great. Sometimes the hardest times require the greatest trust, even when we don’t understand.
The room was cold and sterile, just like the doctor’s expression.
“Mr. Bengtson, you have a very rare form of cancer. You need to get your affairs in order.”
We stared at the doctor in disbelief then looked at each other, holding each others’ hand, then staring back into the doctor’s vacant eyes willing him to continue. “Surgery may prolong your life for a very short period of time, but with the surgery comes a one in four chance you will die on the operating table.”
People still perceived us to be newlyweds. This couldn’t be happening to us. He was so young.
What were we to do? What could we do?
The one thing we knew to do was put our trust in God.
He knew my husband before the foundations of the earth, and He knit him in his mother’s womb. This was not a surprise to God, neither was the solution.
What we didn’t do was waste our time asking God “Why?”
Asking “How?” or “What?” instead of “Why?”
In my experience, both personally and professionally as a neuropsychologist, little good ever came from asking the question “why?” in a time of crisis.
I’ve never met a woman who felt better knowing why her husband had an affair, or why her infant died of SIDS. I’ve never met a man who felt significantly better knowing why his company let him go after 25 years of devoted service and excellent annual reviews. I’ve never met a parent who felt better knowing why their child was bullied on the playground or school bus.
The questions that seemed to provide more helpful answers were “How?” and “What?”
“How will we get through this?”
“What is God’s will for me in this situation?”
“What is the best answer for me and my family?”
With good intentions, people often advised, just take one day at a time. What they couldn’t understand was that many days were met with a whispered, “Lord, help me trust you for the next five minutes” for a whole day at a time was too overwhelming. We were clinging to Him moment by moment.
I felt like a flamingo on display at the zoo, trying to delicately balance on one leg while hoping to maintain some semblance of poise and keep my feathers unruffled. Some days were better than others.
I phoned my mother every day on my hour-long commute home from the hospital that employed me as a neuropsychologist. One unsuspecting day, I hardly knew what to do when the leg I was balancing on was also pulled out from below me.
“Honey,” she said, “the doctor said that the cough that I can’t get rid of, and the lump that I found is from stage IV lung cancer.”
Our response in both scenarios was the same…trust.
The intervening time between hearing those devastating words from the doctor pertaining to my husband’s prognosis and a similar prognosis for my mother was just months. Our response in both scenarios was the same…trust. We chose to trust that the God who created my husband and my mother was good. We chose to trust that He had a plan. We chose to trust that He was sovereign.
Not all was doom and gloom while caring for my husband and my mother through their cancer treatments: we found out we were expecting our second child, an answer to prayer.
Or was it?
Midway through their treatments and through the pregnancy, I lost the baby to miscarriage. Another in a series of losses. Death is a thief. It not only steals life, but if we allow it, it will steal our joy and steal our peace.
Why? It didn’t matter.
How? How would we cope? By trusting that God would be our strength, our comfort.
Trusting God when we don’t understand
Despite the odds given by medical science, God gave my husband victory over cancer.
My mother, on the other hand, did not have victory this side of heaven.
Why? I don’t know and I won’t know until I come face to face with God in glory.
Our response in both situations was the same. We trusted God.
We still trust God.
We still believe that He is good.
That He has a perfect plan.
That He is sovereign.
Even when we do not understand. Even when we do not see. For really, isn’t that what trust requires? Believing even when we do not see.
What do you need to trust Him for today?
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Depression doesn’t have to become a permanent part of life.
There is hope.
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the companion Hope Prevails Bible Study help the reader understand how depression comes to be, recover their joy, reclaim their peace, and re-establish their true identity, while knowing their worth, remembering their secure destiny, and being confident that nothing separates them from God’s love.
“It is refreshing to have a board-certified neuropsychologist acknowledge the spiritual component of depression, but it is even more impressive that Dr. Bengtson would be willing to share her own journey through the fog of despair. Her personal insights are invaluable for those who are struggling with what is often described as ‘the common cold of mental illness.’”
Dr. Neil T. Anderson, founder and president emeritus of Freedom in Christ Ministries and
Author of Overcoming Depression