(By Rykauna Parent)
I was sitting beside my mom on the couch reading the quarterly newsletter from our adoption agency and as I was reading through a list of waiting children, one seemed to pop right out of the page. “One and a half-year-old baby boy with a missing ear. Mom, he sounds perfect!”
“I dunno Rykauna, he sounds a little young for our family but I’ll pray on it.”
Who would have known that the one line description on a newsletter would come to be our Jadon? Our beloved brother, precious son? God knew. What a comforting thought!
We brought Jadon home with us from Vietnam in November of 2014, and he was hospitalized several times before they admitted him for cardiac surgery at SickKids in February 2015. Unfortunately, he suffered complication after complication which led to a year-long hospital stay. Since then he has had surgery six more times. This was obviously an incredibly difficult time in my life and one that still isn’t always easy to talk about. In 1 Peter 1:7 the Bible says: “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I’m not going to pretend to be an expert, but hopefully, my thoughts can help give insight into how you can be of use to God even in times of fierce trial.
See the Good
When you’re in a place of hurt and confusion, sometimes getting a “verse band-aid” from a complete stranger doesn’t feel very good. You know the Word of God is true and you know that God will one day redeem the situation, but it can be difficult to be gracious when an individual compares your suffering with the death of a pet. Going through trials can be a lesson in patience and seeing the good intentions of people, even if those good intentions hurt.
After having been on the receiving end of some “encouragement” that wasn’t very encouraging, I learned to be very cautious and aware when giving comfort to others. It’s totally okay to admit that you’re at a loss of words, and oftentimes, saying that’ll you’ll pray for the situation is the most meaningful thing you could say!
Sometimes Suffering Can Become a Crutch
We’ve all seen it; the 5th grader on crutches in the schoolyard who uses their broken leg as means of getting an extra piece of gum, or another turn on the tire swing.
I know we don’t talk about this much, but it’s far too easy for trials in our life to become crutches. Perhaps not something we use to justify our behaviors to others, but it certainly is easy to use it to justify things to ourselves. I’m ashamed to say this but as a fifteen-year-old, I used the trial in my life as an excuse for not doing homework, for not being on time for school, and worst of all for not reading God’s Word. It’s so easy to think to yourself, “No one else knows what I’m going through, no one else gets it.” But Jesus does.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
When I think back over the many months Jadon spent in the hospital, the first thing that comes to mind is the words of an old hymn:
’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know “Thus saith the Lord!”
Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
Having a child in the hospital is incredibly difficult. I can’t even begin to fathom how people are able to handle the stress without the Lord in their lives. I can remember many a prayer meeting at the foot of Jadon’s crib, and all the many times we sang him Jesus Loves Me. The Bible says that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). It was in those moments of simply baring our hearts to God and pleading with Him to spare our brother’s life that the Lord gave us strength and peace in a situation that made us feel oh so weak.
An Opportunity for Sharing Jesus
There is always a silver lining on each storm cloud, and for us, that silver lining was the opportunity to witness to doctors, nurses, and friends. Time and time again medical professionals would comment on how amazed they were at our family’s sense of peace and calm. These were always great opportunities to talk about how we get our peace from the Lord. We were able to pray with other Sick Kids families before major operations, and even couples who said they didn’t believe in God would ask us to pray for their child.
The staff at the Ronald McDonald house were always blown away at how our church community supplied us with homemade meals for an entire year. We are so phenomenally thankful to all the Christians who made us meals—talk about an incredible testimony! At school, I was thankful that friends were able to see the reality of God with us through the trial of my brother’s illness.
When you’ve been sitting shivering in wet clothes, nothing feels better than putting on a warm hoodie and fuzzy pair of socks—the feeling of being cold has made the warmth that much more pleasant. In the same way, trials sometimes help you to appreciate the things in life that you once took for granted. Before Jadon, I often took eating dinner as a family for granted. It happened every day and really wasn’t anything too extraordinary. But now, never does a prayer before dinner not include “And thank you Lord that our whole family can be together.” This is something that is now so very precious—made sweeter by the bitter sting of chronic illness.
I recently heard ministry about the sovereignty of God where the preacher said, “It’s better to have Jesus than to have answers.” When you watch a child suffer, the question “Why, God?” pops into your mind. Seeing a boy so young suffer so much feels unnatural, wrong even. We may never gain the answers our hearts crave and sometimes the pain of it all can cause you to doubt God’s goodness, but the reality is that God doesn’t owe us anything. He already gave us the one thing He cherished the most--His one and only Son. Jesus can meet me in my pain because He knows what it is to suffer. To be mocked, spit upon--to have his beard ripped from His face. He was whipped, pierced, and punished for me, a lowly sinner. Jesus doesn’t promise life will be easy, but He promises that we will never be alone. We will always have Him.
Postscript by Rykauna’s mom, Sara
Unfortunately, Jadon’s condition has worsened since the writing of this article. He needs to have another heart surgery shortly. One of his heart valves, which has been leaking badly for a while, is now at the point that it will irreversibly scar his liver as well as weaken his heart if it is not fixed soon. Jadon has had life-threatening intraoperative and postoperative complications with previous open heart surgeries so the team is taking his surgery very seriously. The cardiovascular team is concerned with how his weak heart will tolerate another run on the bypass machine. The bypass machine is used to take over the work of the heart and lungs during the time in cardiac surgery when the heart is completely stopped. The solution that they inject into the heart to protect it when the heart is on bypass, did not fully protect his heart during his February 2015 surgery and contributed to him having a heart attack. This, in turn, led to bypass surgery. The cardiac surgeon is concerned that his left ventricle may suffer more damage during the next surgery.
Obviously, hearing Jadon needs more surgery is not the news we, as a family, wanted to hear. We are trying to leave Jadon's life in the care of our Great Physician. We would value prayer for Jadon, his medical team, our other children, and us as we face yet another surgery. Please pray that God will give us all peace as we navigate yet another tough path in our journey with this sweet brother and son. Lately, I have been frequently reminded of a verse that infused me with the strength to walk into the cardiac critical care unit morning after morning during some very dark days in 2015: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).
March 29, 2019 Update On Jadon
Jadon had an unbelievably smooth surgery and postoperative course. His surgeon, and the cardiovascular team have admitted to being pleasantly surprised at how well Jadon has done. The ICU attending said it well, "Jadon is laughing in our faces. We had all these contingency plans laid out and we have not had to use one of them." Another cardiovascular attending physician said, "He has us completely shocked...in a good way!"
In the past few weeks, Jadon had a minor incision infection and a few small rhythm issues, but overall he just continues to amaze us. Probably the most exciting news about his postoperative course is that is currently off supplemental oxygen! After three years of wearing nasal prongs, our boy is running around freely. His development is seeming to take off in leaps and bounds as well. One of the members of our church mentioned to me last week, "From one week to the next, he seems like a completely different kid."
Another encouraging development is in the area of his nutrition. Jadon has a feeding tube as he has not been eating much at all for the past few years. Interestingly enough, since his surgery, Jadon's appetite seems to be coming back. He is a long way off from being liberated from his feeding tube, but we are excited to see him eating small amounts again and trying new foods everyday.
We are immensely grateful for the many people who partnered with us to pray for Jadon on his surgery day. A couple of Rykauna's friends organized a prayer chain so that Jadon was covered in prayer during the entire day of his operation. We know that many others prayed for him and us and many continue to do so. We would like to thank each and every person who prayed for Jadon and for us. God has answered our prayers. To God be the glory.
I will close with the verse that God has given to me time and time again in the past few years, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph 3:20, NIV). Only recently have I been noticing the four little words that follow this verse "to Him be glory" (Eph 3:21 a) These words are especially precious to me because at times I have struggled with why God would allow a young, innocent, child to go through so much difficulty and suffering. Many months ago, after asking God why he has allowed Jadon to suffer so much, the answer He gave me was that it was for His glory. I admit to being sometimes confused by this, but it helped me to accept that there was some purpose in Jadon's suffering. Little did I realize at the time, that the passage that had filled me with hope during some very dark days also had the answer to my big question in the very next verse.
photo credits: B. Alexandre Photo