Our stewardship in suffering

By Annie Garman

When I got pregnant in early 2010, I feared that something was wrong with our baby. Perhaps it was because I was meeting more and more parents of children with health issues. It felt like only a matter of time before it was our turn.

On March 29th, 2010 at the 20-week ultrasound, my biggest fear collided with reality. Less than a minute after we were told it was a girl, the doctor got quiet and somber. Something was wrong with our baby’s heart.

In the months following this, questions began to emerge in my heart. Was God just? Was God good? I had always believed He was, but for the first time I felt I was being put to the test.

I prayed for a miraculous healing and even tried to have faith that He would do it (in case that was the missing ingredient). But when she was born with only half of a heart, we had to accept that God wanted to reveal himself in a different way than performing a miracle. He wanted us to walk the path of having a child with a serious medical condition.

I desired to steward the suffering well. I just didn’t know how.

Eight days after Gracie Garman was born, she was scheduled to have her first open-heart surgery. I woke up early that morning and as I got ready, I had a thought that was so loud it stopped me in my tracks. The thought was “You should write all of this down.”

I immediately thought about the parents I’d been with the past week in the hospital. I thought about how desperately they needed the good news of Jesus to inform their thinking about their current situation. I wanted at that moment to record all that we were about to go through in an effort to point people to Christ.

Little did I know how hard that would be.

Gracie survived her first open-heart surgery, but the other baby down the hall with the same heart defect didn’t. Gracie made it through her next surgery, but her roommate did not.

I flailed and I flailed hard. Never in my sheltered life had I ever been exposed to such suffering. I questioned God’s goodness and the cracks in my faith were utterly exposed. But now, I was trapped because I felt strongly called to document it for all to see.

The years went by, Gracie continued to have procedures and surgeries, and I continued to write it all down.  The writing process exposed things in my heart that were hard to admit to myself.  I became aware of how immature my reactions were and how self-absorbed I had been throughout it all.  Even though there has been a lot of pain and uncertainty, God has used it all to usher me into a new place of trust in Him.

I had heard that He was good, but now I have seen.

I had heard that he was faithful, but now I have tasted it…drunk deeply of it, actually.

In the past five years of Gracie’s life, God has proven Himself to me. Despite all my questions and doubts, He hasn’t left me Fatherless. I don’t have all the answers, but I am convinced more than ever that God is good.  And, because He is good, He can be trusted.

God might not call you to write a book about your suffering, but He will call you to steward your suffering well. Don’t be afraid to share your story, share your pain, share your questions, and share How God has sustained you through it all. God can recycle and use all of it for His glory.

Allow your cracks to be exposed and rejoice that when you are weak, then He is strong.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Unexpected Grace is the story of one anxious mother whose biggest fear came true in the ultrasound room. Living in Reykjavik, Iceland, Annie and her family were suddenly thrust into the world of congenital heart defects when they heard their child’s diagnosis. Would God heal their child? Was God good? Was He just? Could He be trusted regardless of what happened to their daughter?

Click here for links to order your copy of Unexpected Grace.

Published April 29, 2016

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Annie Garman

Annie and her husband Colby live in Northern Virginia where Colby serves as the teaching pastor of Pillar Church. Before their church ministry days, they served for two years as IMB missionaries in Iceland. Annie spends her days taking care of her four daughters, writing and ministering at her local church. She shares about motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life from a place of transparency at anniebgarman.com.