Amanda wrapped a warm blanket around her daughter’s shoulders and across her lap.
Jemimah loves to watch the birds. Amanda keeps a feeder well stocked with delicacies for different varieties of birds so they’ll come often. Jem’s’ wheelchair is often found out on the back path, where she watches with delight as the birds soar down, eat, chirp, hop around the backyard, screech and then fly off again.
Amanda looked at the sky. Those black clouds held promises of rain this evening. “Five more minutes, Jem, then we’ll head in to the warmth.” Picking up the damp towel around Jem’s neck, Amanda wiped the drool from her daughter’s mouth.
As she does many times each day, Amanda screamed silently in excruciating pain. “Why us, Lord? We’ve done nothing to deserve this.” She wanted to run and rant and rave and sob. Yet even as her heart screamed, she forced her exterior to remain calm. No need to stress her daughter.
“Why didn’t you take Jem, Almighty God? She’ll be with you soon enough anyway. But Thomas? He had a bright life ahead. Why?”
Had it already been a year since she’d sat in that police car with its flashing lights and intrusive staccato radio? Had it been a year since she’d stood, huddled in a blanket from the ambulance, gazing in disbelief at the gap in the white safety fence between the road and the steep ravine? Was it really her boy whose mangled body she’d identified when they’d pulled it up from the wreck below? He was a good boy. Just inexperienced, that’s all. If only he’d not ventured out that foggy night. If only a parent had driven him to that friend’s party. If only…….
That was the last time she’d seen Derek too. Raising Jem was difficult, and it had put a strain on their marriage, there was no doubt about it. But the shock of losing Thomas seemed to have pushed Derek over the edge. Who knows where he went? He’d handed in his notice at work. Perhaps he’d returned to their native England? Perhaps he was on the street? Perhaps in a mental institution somewhere, nameless and incommunicative? She hopes he is okay. She’s struggling without him. Financially, it is difficult living on a meagre carer’s pension.
The church people had been great last year. But now, where are they? Busy doing good to someone whose problems can be fixed in a short time, probably. You can’t blame them. From time to time, ‘friends’ still ask her ‘in love’ about unconfessed sin in her life. They mean well. But God is her witness as to the hours she spends in the dark, tossing and turning, trying to work out the ‘why’ of it all. As far as she can tell, she is no worse a sinner than most others, and considerably better than many.
Looking at her daughter’s face, now caught in an expression of rapture, Amanda was hit afresh by the irony of life.
Jemimah, they’d named her. She’d been named after Job’s daughter, Jemimah, an exceptionally beautiful woman. That Jemimah was born after Job had surfaced from an indescribably horrible period of life.
What a joke. They’d thought they had problems before Jem’s birth, when Derek had gone through a dark tunnel of clinical depression. They had thought that Jem’s birth was the beginning of a bright new stage of life. Thomas had followed a year later. Life had seemed so good. They’d had no idea. It hadn’t been until Jem was eighteen months old that they began to realize there was a problem. As the years progressed, so did her disease. And as she became increasingly dependent on others for her every need, yet further did Jem’s father distance himself from his family.
What was Jem gazing at in such wonder? Amanda pulled her attention away from the last remaining member of her family and followed Jem’s gaze to the clouds.
Black, billowing and foreboding, they were a terrifying sight. Amanda shuddered involuntarily. The sun, low in the sky, was shining behind them and the clouds were ringed with blinding white light. Through a small gap in the clouds, the sun’s rays formed a brilliant display. In stark contrast to the surrounds, those glorious rays lit up a small patch of autumn trees just down the hill. The red and golden leaves looked like fireworks frozen in space.
Amanda’s heart gave a little flip. Didn’t God speak to Job from the storm clouds, even before Job’s Jemimah had been dreamt of? What was it Job had said? “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15 NIV). Poor fellow. There wasn’t anything else to hope in.
Job had asked ‘Why’ many times. God didn’t defend Himself at all, let alone explain the ‘whys’. When He did speak, it was only to show Job how incredibly majestic and powerful He is. For Job, that was enough.
Amanda breathed a prayer of thanks to the God of Job, whom she worshiped too. It wasn’t much, but for a short time, at least, her strength was again renewed. She mightn’t quite “soar on wings like eagles” as the prophet Isaiah had promised of those who trust in the Lord (Isaiah 40:31 NIV). There was definitely an updraught though.
The sun grew lower. The light faded. Lightning lit up the sky. Thunder rumbled. The first raindrops hit.
There still wasn’t much to hold onto. Yet the same hope that Job had displayed, she knew afresh at heart level too. God is faithful. One day, she’ll be reunited with her son. Her daughter will be healthy and whole. And her husband will be happy.
As the apostle Paul wrote, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV).
Amanda’s hope is all that she has. Her hope, however, is real. Her hope is enough.
If all God gave us was salvation - eternity with Him - then that in itself is enough. But He graciously gave us the gift of Hope in this life through the resurrection of His Son. So many gifts, by the One who suffered so much. Yes, we wouldn't even have Hope if it wasn't for God's Mercy. Good insights Suz.