Written by Karen Golder
Oh, it’s so easy to have hope while the sun is shining and all is good with the world, but what about when the chips are down, it’s all going wrong and we aren’t sure which way is up?
As I write this, I am sitting in Birmingham Children’s Hospital next to my daughter’s bed. She has just had a massive brain operation called a hemispherotomy, to disconnect one hemisphere (half) of her brain, neurologically, from the rest of her body. It’s the biggest neurological operation that can be done. It was to try to stop seizures that she had had since she was 5. I’m not going to lie, its been pretty traumatic, and we are going to have to work really hard at rehab to regain movement and speech, but to have no seizures is going to be worth it.
There have been really scary moments, like when her pulse drops dramatically, or when she goes as white as a sheet and her lips blue, or every time they roll her to change the bed sheets and her swollen head wobbles like a new born baby’s. And I wonder how close to death has she actually been. I think there are moments over the last few days when she has walked through that valley of the shadow of death, as there have been in the past; like when a seizure dropped her off the harbour wall 10foot into a foot of water. That moment that felt like a modern day version of the father telling Jesus that seizures throw his son into the fire (Mark 9).
I found myself speaking to my Mum today and saying that I have no idea how people who have no belief beyond this life can get through this. I imagine there must be a huge desperation and fear to cling to this life. A desperation and fear that I do not have, and truly don’t want. I don’t want to be led by fear over these next few months, I want us all to be led by hope. I am so thankful for a bigger hope. I know that there is more than this life. A hope that goes beyond this life. A hope that I can lean on (call it a crutch if you like, I don’t care!) This hope and assurance means that I can focus on this life (and our daughter’s neuro rehab) with reassurance not fear, because I know the future is sorted.
Looking at this rationally, most people, especially if you pay a mortgage, have life insurance. Or you have holiday insurance, car insurance or contents insurance. We take this out so that if the worst was to happen, we know our loved ones would be financially ok, or we would get our holiday refunded or our car replaced. Basically so it would work out ok. My assurance and hope in Jesus are my eternal life insurance if you like. I can have peace and rest today because I know that whatever happens the future is safe. In fact it is more than safe, the Bible tells us there will be a time when there will be no more tears or pain or sorrow – I’m holding out for that!!! (Rev 21).
The amazing skills of a neurosurgeon can only take my hope so far, they can only give hope to the end of this life. No doctor or researcher has found the secret for preventing that point that is inevitable for us all. No doctor can give me hope for eternity. Ten years ago when our daughter started seizing and lost the use of her right side the doctor’s didn’t know what was happening as she was presenting so unusually. They videoed her and sent it to doctors overseas and we were scared. They had no idea what the future would look like, whether she would get worse or better, or stay the same. I remember being on my knees at the front of church praying, crying out, a snotty mess, and God showed me a picture of a long, plain corridor, at the end of it was a metal wall. As I watched the wall drew down and sunk into the ground revealing a corridor that went on as far as the eye could see. It was like the initial wall which had seemed so solid was the end of this life, but actually life continues on farther than we can ever imagine. What about my bigger hopes, I hope there is something after this life. I hope I am going there. I hope I am loved. These are the big issues beyond this life. So, when I reflect on hope, I can have hope for the short term things, and these answers can take many forms. For example, this time I believe God has used some amazingly talented men to change our daughter’s life.
But hope for the long term? I believe that initiated at that first Christmas and subsequent Easter 33 years later. The Old Testament points to it coming. Simeon and Anna, prophets at the temple, waited for it. The disciples witnessed it and the Bible spells it out; “God has given us eternal life, and that life is in His son.” (1 John 5:11) There is not just hope, but assurance for a life far bigger than this one. A life that is painless, and full of joy (Rev 21:4).
And it all started with a little baby.
Karen Golder is a Baptist Minister and Co-Founder of Breathe Communities, Penzance