Jehovah Jireh – Jesus Carries
“Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, ‘The-Lord-Will-Provide;’ as it is said to this day, In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:13-14
Sometimes when we look back over our life we find chunks of time that are so painful that we can’t really see God in them. We don’t know where He was or what He was doing but we surely can’t see grace or mercy manifested. Usually we shove these to the side and consider them “pre-Christian” years as we somehow rationalize that God wasn’t there because we didn’t invite him in. But it takes courage to look at our past and the hard times we have endured and ask God where He was during those times. As I learned more about grace I began to wonder about the time when I had cancer as a child and where God was during that time of my life. If grace is truly undeserved favor then why did I struggle to rationalize and understand that even then God had a plan?
Back when I had cancer and was fighting each day for my very life and breath I felt much like I was a sacrificial lamb. Being four years old I really couldn’t say that I had lived a life that I was now facing the consequences of. I was innocent of pain and suffering up until the point when I started the process for my amputation. Even when they told me they would take my “old and sick leg” and give me a new one I didn’t really understand that the new one would be a crappy fake counterfeit. But there I was alone with just my Mom in New York City wondering why I couldn’t just give up completely. What had I done to deserve this kind of pain and prison at four years old?
Only a few months prior to this I was perfectly healthy and a beautiful little girl with golden curls while running around, climbing trees, and riding my bicycle. Now I lay in the hospital bed bald, skinny and an amputee while listening to the nurses tell my mother that if I did not eat something by 6 pm that they would consider me starving and have to force feed me through a tube. I remember being so hungry yet simply dreading the inevitable effects of eating with chemotherapy: vomiting. The vomiting caused sores in my mouth and throat, other experimental medicine caused sores in my ears and nose, even my urinary tract and rectum. No, eating or drinking wasn’t something that I was comfortable doing but in my prison of white walls and white sheets I knew the alternative of being strapped down and force-fed wasn’t any improvement. At least now I could ask to be wheeled down to the play room and watch the other kids blow their allowance on the Pac-Man arcade. I remember sighing in defeat and asking my mother if a milkshake would count as food before 6 pm.
That was 26 years ago and a real example of a day in the hospital. That wasn’t the only time they slated me for “starving”. In fact, I nearly starved myself to death on more than one occasion. It was so bad that anything I wanted to eat at any time of the day or night my Mother would go through hell or high water to try to get it for me. One night I decided I craved Fruit Loops. She went out strolling the dangerous streets of 1980’s New York City at 11pm looking for the one kind of cereal no one seemed to carry. She came back with the wonderful knock off of Trix only to have me reject them and cry myself to sleep hungry again. The list of foods I vomited and wouldn’t eat grew and with it the list of foods I enjoyed eating shrank with those memories.
Awhile ago a lady that went to our church at the time of my cancer (Little Britain Presbyterian) dropped off a bag on my front porch. Inside there was a red binder and it wasn’t until I started to open it and sift through the papers that I began to see the meaning of it. I felt as if God was speaking to me personally; answering my questions about His presence during that era of my life. The binder was full of donation receipts, newspaper articles, thank you notes, advertisements for fundraisers, etc. It was like opening a file in God’s filing cabinet that He kept about my life and His promises to me. Here this woman, Vicki, had kept this binder and all of these things for over 25 years for the very moment when I was asking God where He had been during that time!
Having been in the hospital four and half hours away I was not present for any of the fundraisers, bake sales, auctions, benefits, etc. My mother was with me and on the weekends my father was too so I do not think any of us even knew aside from the proceeds just how much the community was doing for us. A four year old child wouldn’t grasp the enormity of such things anyway.
While my father did have health insurance it had a yearly cap that we maxed out long before September. Mom had a huge basket that she and my father would simply throw the bills into. The basket was always full and I remember her being so frustrated with them that she would periodically take the whole basket to the burn barrel and light them up. It never seemed she returned to the house looking any less burdened than when she left. I remember feeling so guilty and being so full of sadness for what I was causing my family to go through. Little outbursts from my younger sister (only 18 months and sent to stay with my grandparents for the year) reminded me even more that I was sucking up every resource that was available right down to the absence of my mom in her life.
It was an awful time. Most people think that being only four years old that I wouldn’t remember much about this time but in fact I was a sponge (like most four year olds) and I was soaking up everything that I saw and experienced. In fact, I believe many of the things I experienced were so shocking to me as an innocent child that they pushed me into a chronic state of trauma. During this time I knew God was with me because I had seen Jesus come into my hospital room one day and was reminded by everyone that He would watch over me but as far as knowing God as my provider: I had no file in my brain to understand that. The only provision up until that point I had seen were gifts from friends and an expensive counterfeit leg that felt NOTHING like the replacement I was promised. I really didn’t see how God was at work both then and for most of my life until that point.
“Jehovah-Jireh- This is more than financial provision; it is a provision of everything we might need spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Jehovah-Jireh will provide all that we need.” John Paul Jackson, Inheriting the Fullness of God’s Names p.49
Looking over the binder or “God’s file on me” I was amazed again and again at the fullness of testimony jumping off the pages. Evidence of Jehovah-Jireh the provider for my family during that time is clear. The articles explain that the events grew too quickly and had to be moved to accommodate space, that money that kept pouring in and they didn’t know why, celebrity donations were coming in to be auctioned off, and the list goes on. Before social media, the internet, or even cell phones, the large scale of those fundraisers truly is mind-blowing and points only to God’s grace.
I may not have seen how God was at work providing for us at four years old but now at thirty I am blown away at the depth of His love for me. He had a plan for my life and it was big. He had a heart for me and it was bigger. He (switching to the present) has so much grace and abundance to share with me and I look forward to understanding that more and more each day I live. It never fails to humble me when I delve into the past and get a fresh perspective on times that I and so many others view as times of pure suffering. In reality, it was during those times that God was most evident. I may not have felt like He was close and I may not have seen him there at the time but it doesn’t change the overwhelming manifestation of provision and favor.
One of the articles in the file provided a story about me climbing into my tree house for the first time.
“The first time she attempted the climb into the tree house, her mother watched anxiously from the house. ‘I saw her looking at the ladder then look around to see if anyone was watching. I wondered whether I should stop her or not. Then I saw this look of determination on her face. She took one step then another and she was up. Then she came down the slide. We haven’t been able to keep her out of it since.’”
It was a forbidden thing for a long time I remember because my parents were afraid that if I would fall going up the ladder I may bust my newly healed stump open. They had discussed cutting the tree house down since they didn’t think it possible for me to enjoy any longer. As a child the tree house built just for me by my dad was my whole world and I was sure that all of my dreaming needed to take place there! After a year of living in a hospital room I needed to feel the leaves in my fingers and laugh when my stomach dropped as I rode down the sliding board! As I stood at the bottom of the ladder and pondered those things I didn’t know my mother was watching from the window. Looking back on this story in my Mother’s words I see even here how My Provider was present. He knew my need for freedom and my need to be independent again. I believe He stood behind me and gave me the determination needed to take those impossible first steps up the ladder. Against all odds: a child missing a leg climbing a ladder? I believe He must have sent an angel to stand behind me and whisper, “This is how you can climb with one leg…!”
Jehovah-Jireh my provider. He was there then and he is here now. He has graciously allowed me this glimpse into my past to see how even in the midst of pain and suffering He was there. Pictures are proof of the smiles and joy that He miraculously gave to me and my family to get through that time. Looking back and seeing that He truly was there in the midst of things has made such a difference in my mindset of the present-future. Now I can know even more than ever that I am not condemned to a hopeless life (Romans 8:1), I am not condemned in my situations or my disability. I am not condemned in my mind because of the trauma I’ve had to endure. I am not condemned in my marriage because of the stress a disability places on it. I am not condemned to live life without seeing God’s presence in every dark corner of it. There is no condemnation because Jesus paid the price for me to live life in freedom and in joy and with the light of His presence in every corner.
Likewise, may you be blessed in seeing God in your past. Take time to think and look at the ways and the blessings He has imparted to you even in the times where you felt He was absent. May you have the courage to ask Him to show you the ways He was there in those dark times. May you see Jehovah-Jireh in the midst of your struggles both past and present, to know that He has been there in all-encompassing provision: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically each step of the way. May you be brought to the fullness of knowing that you have been resurrected with Christ and because of His sacrifice you can receive His blessing in every situation.