If you could go back in time and press the pause button on a specific moment, what would it be?
When I ask myself this question, I can think of several moments that I would love to go back and enjoy again; however, there is one day I like to call my favorite day. The interesting thing about this day is that although it was one of my best days, it was also one of my son’s worst days.
He was probably about three years old, I don’t remember all of the details, but he needed to get his tonsils removed for some reason. It’s a pretty standard procedure, but for a first-time parent, it was pretty scary. We went to the hospital early in the morning. I was feeling anxious, but my three-year-old was having a blast. He didn’t know what was going on, so this was an adventure from his perspective. He was able to explore a new place with lots of new toys and wear a funny hospital gown. All I could think about was that I was about to hand my son over to some strangers, so they could put him to sleep and then take the knife to him.
Talk about the most unnatural feeling in the world for a parent. Handing him over to the surgeon was super difficult, but we let him go pushing past the tears. My little guy seemed excited to go with this nice man and his crew of nurses. I don’t remember how long the surgery lasted, but it felt like an eternity.
Finally, the doctor came to tell us that everything went well and that we could go and see him. We walked back into the cold, sterile hospital room, and they prepared for him to wake up. That was a rough moment. He woke up confused, afraid, and in pain.
When I was a kid, and I was sick, all I wanted was my mom, so I hung back and let my wife be the one to comfort him as he began to cry. It broke my heart to see him in such pain and confusion. My wife picked him up, and we walked to a recovery room with the nurse. He hung tightly to his mom, but nothing she did could stop the tears.
I walked behind feeling completely useless, but then something amazing happened. He looked up from my wife’s tear-soaked shoulder and saw me walking behind him. He reached out his hand and cried out, “Daddy!” My instinct was to run to him and hold him tight, but I couldn’t because of all of the cords attached to him. So I walked behind him, doing what I could as he continued to call out to me.
When we finally got to the recovery room, I was able to take him from my wife, and finally, for the first time since he woke up, he felt peace. I held him for a while, thinking after he had some time to calm down, then he would be ok to lay on the bed by himself or he would want his mom to hold him again, but every time I tried to pass him off, he held on tight to me saying “I want Daddy.”
I felt bad for my son, but I have to be honest. The fact that he wanted me more than anything or anyone else made this day one of the best days of my life. I kept thinking it would end and he would grow tired of me, but he didn’t. Even after we got home from the hospital, all he wanted was to be in his daddy’s arms. I probably held him for twelve straight hours that day and watched just as much Curious George!
Of course, my wife hates this story, and I use it to tease her, but I love the spiritual implications. The Bible tells us in the book of Psalms, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1–2 ESV). Perspective is a funny thing. My son remembers a time of pain, but I remember a time of intimacy.
I won’t attempt to answer the question of pain and suffering in the world with this short article, but I will attempt to give those struggling some hope. God may not take the pain away, but the great thing about whatever you’re facing today is that it should drive you into the arms of your Father. Only in his loving embrace will you ever find true peace. I would have never connected with my son the way I did if it wasn’t for the worst day of his life (up to that point). The worst day of your life very well could be the best day. Not because there was no pain but because of where that pain drives you. Will you find refuge in God? Will you say as the Psalmist did, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”?
I think that on the other side of eternity, we might look back over our lives and see that some of our worst moments were some of the best. In our darkest moments when we were helpless, those were the moments we refused to leave the Father’s embrace. If you are lost, hurting, or confused, all you have to do is call out to him. “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (Psalm 91:15 ESV).
Trevor Rickard is an Associate Pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship.