It had been a long day filled with stories, snacks, and snuggles. I finished reading the third bedtime story that evening and kissed my daughter goodnight. She placed her warm, chubby hand on my face and asked, “One more story Mama?” Her sincere gaze and sweet voice quickly convinced me.
I sat back down and reached for a long-time favorite book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. In the book, the traveler encounters several places, from the highest highs, to the lowest lows. Somewhere along the way, the traveler finds himself in “a most useless place. The Waiting Place…”
In those quiet minutes I read to my daughter, God spoke to me loudly. I could finally put a name to the place I had been for the past few years.
THE PLEADING PLACE
Sitting in the waiting room of the pediatric intensive care unit, my soul ached as my stomach churned. My daughter’s heart would be stopped any moment, and she would be placed on bypass while the surgeon repaired the congenital defects with which she had been born.
Minutes earlier, I watched my husband hand our 11-week-old daughter to the nurse who carried her back to the operating room. As she left our view, we both fell to our knees and cried out to God for a miracle. Indeed, this Waiting Place, a place of pleading, felt empty and cold.
What if she didn’t make it through the surgery? What if she pulled through the surgery but never lived a normal life?
For the next six hours, all felt broken and lost. I could not comprehend how God could redeem this crisis and use it for His glory. Why her? Why an innocent baby?
As I wrestled with God in the small, empty waiting room, He spoke to me. “You are mine, and I am here with you. But she is also mine.”
As a mother, I struggled to understand what God was asking me to do in that moment. I was vehemently praying for God to perform a miracle through the hands of a surgeon, to restore and make my daughter’s heart new. God gently spoke to me once more through Scripture: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV).
Though I wanted to cling to my baby and claim her as mine, I had to surrender her life to the Father. I had to hand over my question of ‘what if’, for the holy exchange of ‘even if’. And so, I rephrased my questions into statements: Even if she doesn’t make it through the surgery, God is still good. Even if she pulls through the surgery but never lives a normal life, I will worship my Redeemer.
Redemption requires laying down our will and picking up His.
As my silent tears hit the white linoleum floor, I understood what it meant to abide in the grace and mercy of the Father. He had pulled up a chair and sat with me in my pain and sorrow. In that moment, with my daughter’s future and outcome still unknown, His love enveloped me and invited me into His presence as I waited in the Pleading Place.
The months passed and we celebrated our baby girl’s first birthday. Life returned to its repetitive, safe rhythm, and I relished the days filled with familiarity. God brought us a season of respite and comfort as we grew closer to Him and one another.
THE DARK PLACE
But the season of rest was short lived. A few months later, I met a friend of mine for a walk around a beautiful lake near our home with our daughters.
While on our walk, I started to get the worst headache I had ever experienced. I struggled to breathe and told my friend, “I think I need to take a break for a minute.” It began to get very dark outside, despite the morning hour and spring weather. “That’s odd,” I thought. My world got darker and darker until everything finally went black.
I have little memory of my first few days in the hospital. I heard words like “ruptured brain aneurysm” and “her condition is life and death at this point.” I felt terrible for whomever the doctors were talking about and knew she must be gravely ill.
Suddenly, I realized the physicians were talking about me—a healthy 28-year old, young wife and mother who climbed 14ers for goodness sake. Surely they had it wrong?
Only, they didn’t have it wrong. The severe pain in my head confirmed that I was, indeed, critically ill.
I found myself now in the very dark Waiting Place of the intensive care unit. After suffering a ruptured brain aneurysm, I faced a month-long recovery in the ICU and several more months learning how to function again. My life and faith were fundamentally shaken.
This season was filled with waiting. Waiting on God to answer fervent prayers. Waiting on God to explain to me why He had allowed this to happen. Waiting to be fully restored to my former self.
In my darkest, pain-filled moments, I begged God to end the pain. I could not reconcile living with the amount of physical pain I was enduring, and I could not resolve myself to the fact that The Great Physician may not mend my broken body.
I questioned if I had the strength to make it another day. I had little hope that the pain would end and I would return to the life I once knew. I grew weary sitting in The Dark Place of waiting, and my heart was heavy with despair. Weeks passed until I heard the voice of the Lord. “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).
THE HEALING PLACE
In that moment, only one thing was certain. I knew that God was working in my life. Even though I didn’t know how or when restoration would come, God made it clear He was working, and my job was to wait.
Once again, God brought me to the most useful place, The Waiting Place of healing. Sometimes it seems as if God is silent in this space, but often, He speaks to us the loudest here.
In her book, “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way,” Lysa Terkeurst states, “I’m balancing on that tightrope. I’m no longer at the first cliff where the ground fell out from beneath me. But I’m also not all the way across to solid ground where everyone exhales, exhausted but relieved. No, I’m in the middle, which honestly might be the scariest of all places.”
Truly, the middle—or The Waiting Place as I’ve come to know it—can be the most frightening of all. It’s the place we never want to be, as answers are elusive and faith is required. Drawing from my prior experience with the Lord, I knew I must be obedient and allow Him time to move and perform His holy work behind the scenes as I healed.
Amid my suffering, I chose to stop wrestling with the Holy Spirit and His plan for my life. I looked to the book of Job for answers. When Job came to the end of himself, he acknowledged the Father’s power and humbly declared, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Stepping back and choosing to believe ‘even if’ over ‘what if’ is an act of surrender. Exchanging our desperate lack for God’s renewal is an active process, a choice. To allow God to transcend the pain of this world, we must be willing to surrender the outcomes we hope for in exchange for His redemption.
Instead of questioning God, I began making statements affirming God. Even if God chooses not to heal me, He is still good, I declared. Even if I die, I know my God has not abandoned or forsaken me. Going from accusing to affirming took faith and patience but yielded so much more.
Months after my initial collapse, restoration did come. God slowly healed my body through the hands of a neurosurgery team and months of therapy. I still don’t have answers as to why my daughter’s heart and my brain needed mending, but I know God’s ‘why’ isn’t always revealed on this side of heaven.
In my recovery, I have learned that The Waiting Place is in fact the exact space where the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and renews our lives. When you find yourself in “a most useless place,” take heart that the King of Kings knows the places you’ll go.
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