It was a time in life long ago in a land far away when I first asked The Wrong Question. The year was 1974; I was a twenty-five-year-old first lieutenant in the USAF. My eighteen-month assignment to the small, remote village of Woomera, South Australia was just two weeks from ending when the fragility of life knocked on my door. The events that transpired in those final days rocked the foundation of my faith.
My pregnant wife and one-year-old daughter accompanied me to the Australian outback. We felt it was a great opportunity for us to experience life abroad. The scenery, unusual wildlife, and the Aussie people we met did not disappoint us. We were on top of the world, figuratively speaking, in the land down under, where kangaroo-crossing signs stood along the roadside as a warning to drivers. My second daughter was even born in Woomera, which is story in itself for another time.
Although we had enjoyed living in Australia for seventeen months, we were excited about returning home to the States—just two weeks remained. Suddenly, without any warning, our happy little world came crashing down around us. Our three-year-old daughter started having difficulty breathing during the wee hours of the night. I carried her in my arms to the small hospital because we had recently sold our car. In the few minutes it took to walk there, her difficulty breathing appeared to be getting much worse. I was in ultra-panic mode!
When the doctor examined her, he said there was nothing he could do for her in Woomera. The remote medical facility was simply not equipped to handle someone in her critical condition. What? Critical? She was perfectly fine when she went to bed! The doctor offered little hope that she would survive; his facial expression alarmingly displayed his sense of desperation. Typical of most fathers, I would have given anything to change places with my daughter, but that was not an option.
The Flying Doctor Service airlifted my daughter to a civilian hospital located in the city of Adelaide, over three-hundred miles away. I became even more frustrated when told I couldn’t accompany her on the flight. This was definitely the scariest experience of my young life, but things were going to get worse.
Things were happening extremely fast—my head was spinning! I tried to gather my wits in efforts to figure out how I could get us to Adelaide. First, I humbled myself and asked the young Australian couple if I could borrow the car I had just sold them, which they graciously allowed me to do. Then we had to find someone to keep our second daughter while we were in Adelaide for an unknown duration. A neighbor quickly obliged. Next came getting permission from my commanding officer to allow me to go to Adelaide, which he did without hesitation.
We began the long-slow journey not knowing what we would find when we arrived at the hospital. Ahead of us was eighty miles of dirt road before we reached a small two-lane-paved road outside of Port Augusta that would lead us into Adelaide. We were scared and felt helpless knowing our daughter was in the hospital gasping for each breath. We had many hours to reflect on our situation.
We started asking “WHY” God would allow something like this happen to our precious daughter. She was just an innocent little girl who had done nothing wrong. Then we wondered “WHY” God would punish her for something we may have done. We started questioning our faith and belief in God at a time when we needed Him most. The question “WHY” kept entering our conversation, but we continued praying. Fear of the unknown was consuming us with each mile we travelled. We kept asking “WHY” He would allow something like this happen to our daughter. WHY?!! WHY?!!
When we arrived at the hospital, a nurse escorted us to the ICU area. The sight we saw was one I’ll never forget. My daughter was still with us, but there were tubes and monitors all around her; she was fighting hard to stay alive. We didn’t know if her next breath would be her last, and prayed that it wouldn’t. The fear of losing our precious child was overwhelming.
Our daughter was in the hands of total strangers in a land halfway around the world from our native land. There were no friends, family, or military personnel to comfort us; we were all alone in a great big world. We prayed; we doubted; we bargained; we prayed harder, asking God to spare our daughter and return her to good health. We were completely exhausted from lack of sleep, food, and the mounting fear—we were numb!
News of the clear and present danger a young American couple was facing with their child spread throughout the hospital. A pastor came by to prepare us for what might happen. Still searching for answers, we asked him our “WHY” questions.
He responded with the gentle kindness of a man of cloth and reminded us that asking God “WHY” was the wrong question. People have and will continue to ask such questions, but no human possesses the wisdom to answer them. We have to accept the cliché that “sometimes, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people” for reasons known only to God. We must remain steadfast in our faith and place all of our burdens in God’s hands—we should never stop believing and praying. We won’t always get what we pray for because God knows what’s best for us. He has plans for each of us and is always there for us. He reveals His plans to us in His perfect timing.
To say we felt wonderful after talking to the pastor would be a bit dishonest, but he did give us a thread of hope. We continued to pray numerous times each day. More than a week passed before our daughter started improving and ultimately recovered. A true blessing!
To this day, we do not know the answers to our “WHY” questions, but we thank God for sparing our daughter. We have received many blessings from Him since that experience and understand God’s gift of grace. Our faith has grown stronger.
I share this story with the knowledge that many parents ask the same “WHY” questions but don’t always experience the same outcome we did. I know many parents who have lost a child, and my heart goes out to each of them. Having come close to losing my child, I can only imagine how difficult it was for them to move forward with their lives. What I do know is that those who do move on have true faith in God; their knowledge of His love is a blessing that some may never come to understand.
Life can change in a flash, but those who believe and have true faith in God are equipped to handle whatever challenges come their way. They know they Never Walk Alone!
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Revelation 21:4 (NIV)
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Tom Tatum – Author – 2015
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