When God Speaks through Your Child's Story
By Jodie Pine
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Jodie's Story
We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we brought our sons, Daniel (7) and David (8), home from the Lanzhou orphanage almost eight years ago. I was rejoicing that our six-year wait to adopt had finally come to completion, but also filled with fear for the future.
Just two days after being officially matched with our boys, we received the devastating news that Daniel was hospitalized twenty minutes from our apartment, returning to consciousness after a six-day coma. A sudden and severe brain infection had robbed him of almost all of his abilities and he was like an empty shell. When my husband and I were given permission to visit him, the doctor told us there was no way of predicting what kind of recovery he would make.
God restored life to Daniel’s lifeless body. But there was such a huge gap now from where he had been when we first met our boys at the orphanage two months prior. How much of that sweet vibrant boy would He bring back?
He was like an infant when we brought him home. I had recently been with Chinese friends rejoicing over the birth of their newborn and lamented over how natural it felt to change a baby’s diaper and how unnatural it felt to change a seven-year-old’s diaper. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Or was it?
At that time, I was able to say out loud that God was good, but down deep I didn’t know how His plans through this life-altering illness for Daniel could be good, when they seemed so horribly bad.
I whispered to God in the darkness, “I don’t know what You’re doing.”
In that difficult season, Elisabeth Elliot’s The Path of Loneliness ministered to me.
She says, “Waiting on God is an act of faith. The greatest thing ever required of us humans. Not faith in the outcome we are dictating to God, but faith in His character, faith in Himself. It is resting in the perfect confidence that He will guide in the right way, at the right time. He will supply our need. He will fulfill His work. He will give us the very best if we trust Him.”
God will give us the very best. Not second best. Or third best.
Somehow, even though it felt like it, our reality wasn’t Plan B. Could I have faith to believe that Daniel’s brain damage was for his best? And for my best as well?
I felt both encouraged and challenged by Elisabeth Elliot’s thoughts: “We may be missing the fact that it is here, where we happen to be at this moment, and not in another place or another time, that we may learn to love Him—here where it seems He is not at work, where His will seems obscure or frightening, where He is not doing what we expected Him to do, where He is most absent. Here, and nowhere else, is the appointed place. If faith does not go to work here, it will not go to work at all.”
I desperately needed my faith to go to work here.
While I was truly grateful for the miraculous progress that Daniel made in his recovery that first year, I also really struggled with not knowing what he was capable of learning and how I could help him reach his full potential. His limited memory meant that things were very easily forgotten, even from just two minutes before.
When he was nine, we enrolled Daniel in Chinese kindergarten because that seemed the best fit for him developmentally. But his behaviors were too disruptive and the teacher didn’t know how to handle him. At that low point, I listened to my deep-seated fears and convinced myself that Daniel would never be able to function in a classroom setting.
I wrote in my journal, “I was looking into his future and writing in a big black marker over the unwritten pages of his life: HOPELESS and BURDEN. But that is not God's perspective. His plans for Daniel are full of hope and promise. I want to have eyes of faith to see what God sees and to trust Him in the dark.”
Amazingly, Daniel was able to function in a regular classroom for four years after we transitioned from China to the US. He had an incredible 2nd grade teacher who worked hard to keep him in her classroom eighty percent of his day. She was his teacher again in fifth grade and was a strong advocate for getting all the resources he needed to study alongside his peers. The gap was still present, but he was thriving.
The summer before his sixth grade year we moved across the country and I began to have increasing concerns with Daniel’s health. I listened to that familiar voice of fear, that Daniel’s unique needs would go unmet at middle school. He needed someone to accompany him at all times because he couldn’t keep track of where he was and where he needed to go.
That fall, as he regressed both mentally and physically, we didn’t know what was wrong or how far he would slide backward.
In January, the hidden became known and we discovered that Daniel had a brain tumor. He’s been knocked down with a triple blow to his brain now through cancer, chemo, and radiation. And I’ve found myself projecting my fears for him into the future again, unsure that learning in a traditional school environment will be possible.
What does God have in store for Daniel? As I brought this question to the Lord recently with my spiritual director, I heard Him say, “Let Daniel become.”
Our gracious and loving God reminded me of how He has had His hand on Daniel’s life from the very beginning. Spina bifida. Encephalitis. Brain cancer. These were not mistakes or bad breaks but God’s merciful sovereignty.
Back when I observed Daniel in the orphanage, learning how to walk again after encephalitis, these words came to mind: “A child will lead them…”
When I wrestled with God as Daniel’s health began to regress in alarming ways, He challenged me to surrender the pressure I felt of providing everything Daniel needed to make progress, and to allow him to be my teacher.
He spoke to me through James 3:17-18: “Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace,” (The Voice Translation).
With heavenly wisdom Daniel has been teaching me, through his steadfast example of contentment, resilience, and purity of heart. The seed of his life, throughout all of his setbacks, is clearly and beautifully flowering into righteousness.
Now, as I consider these fresh words, “Let Daniel become,” I believe God wants me once again to surrender my ideas of what “success” might mean for Daniel and allow him to show me who God is making him to be as He continues to live more of His life through this special vessel.
God’s plans for Daniel are full of hope and promise. Through his courageous example, I am better able to hear His voice louder than the voice of fear and to trust Him in the dark.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Since her family returned to the United States six years ago, after twenty years of ministry in China, Jodie has transitioned to a role of shepherding global women as they re-enter their passport country.
She has also pursued writing, speaking, soul care, and social justice. Her youngest son’s cancer journey last year created unexpected ways of connecting with Jesus’ suffering, marveling at the hope of His resurrection, and growing deeper in gratitude for the love and support of His Body here on earth. You can connect with Jodie on her blog, Facebook or Instagram.