When Suffering Produces Endurance

…the testing of your faith produces endurance…” (James 1:3)

Several years ago, our daughter and her husband traveled to California, leaving their three year old, Jackson, and eighteen month old, Julia, in our care. Like most grandparents, we were delighted to keep them. One of those mornings, my husband took Jackson with him to his office. Jackson sat on his lap, looking over the desk, asking questions. As OS was opening his mail, Jackson grabbed a letter opener, somehow the end of it striking his eye. We soon assumed his eyeball had been scratched since he wouldn’t open his eye, and had a patch put on it later in the day. Usually that type of injury heals quickly, but he wasn’t any better the next morning.

My husband saw a friend at lunch, an ophthalmologist, and related this story. The doctor told us to immediately come to his office, this did not sound good. Two hours later we were on our way to Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery. This was a serious injury. Just the tiniest bit closer to the pupil and Jackson would have been blinded. Those hours are a blur to me now, Holly and David feverishly booking flights to get home asap, the doctor and nurse calling them to get permission to operate, finding someone to help with Julia, getting admitted to the hospital, all the while dealing with our growing fears. The surgery was a success because his eye was saved, but his lens was destroyed.

Thus began a very long road of a three year old wearing a contact (with all the issues that brings) as well as “patching” almost every day for the next eight or nine years. Patching is a technique used to prevent the brain from shutting down the injured eye. The surgeons said once his eye was fully developed (around age eleven or twelve), a permanent lens could be implanted. However, the patching was crucial to the whole process, and his future vision literally depended upon it. When a child is barely three, and his problem can’t be fully resolved until he is eleven….well, that seemed like an eternity. There was no quick fix. Those were long days, weeks and years with many tears, frustrations and weariness on all sides.

Endurance was the name of the game. But time does pass and two summers ago, Jackson had the lens surgery. We still have no words to express our thankfulness to God that it was successful, and his vision is very good.

I experienced this trial through the lens of a wife and a mother. I had great angst in seeing my husband’s grief over this accident, which had happened on his watch. He was inconsolable. As a parent and especially as a grandparent, our primary instinct is to PROTECT. How could such a freak accident occur to this child while sitting on his grandfather’s lap? As much as I and others tried to comfort him and remind him of God’s sovereignty, it was very difficult. OS is a strong believer, mature in his faith, to say the least. But this accident undid him. I realized more than ever how our brains may agree with Truth, such as God’s care and control. But our emotions – remorse, guilt, self-condemnation – can lag far behind, tormenting us. I couldn’t fix that. The best I could do was sit by quietly, pray and entrust him to God’s loving care.

As a mom, I have marveled these past years at the resourcefulness and sheer fortitude of young mothers. Truly God equips mommies for their season. One particular morning Jackson was unusually agitated, wailing, fearful of patching (because he couldn’t see well). I watched as Holly swept him up, soothed him, invented some little game and quietly sang to him walking through their house, pointing out favorite toys and familiar objects. He soon settled down and forgot about the patch. How many times did I see that happen? Too many to remember. God may not remove the trial, but somehow He provides the wisdom and patience to cope with it every time.
The accident is part of our family story, although it is primarily Jackson’s. He is a young teenager now, I listen when he occasionally refers to the accident.

How will this experience affect him in the future? We all pray it is for God’s glory and for our good.

“….But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:2,3

Published April 22, 2016