Four years ago, our son Levi was sick with strep throat. We did what most parents would do and took him to the doctor and they prescribed antibiotics to fight the infection. Just a few days into the treatment, Levi began to develop large blisters all over his body and his lips swelled shut and turned black. We were horrified at this, as you can imagine, and rushed him to the doctor. We ended up seeing five doctors and none of them could give a proper diagnosis. We heard everything from chicken pox to one doctor saying, “I don’t know.” At least he was honest. In the beginning, Levi was gripped with fear as we all were in varying degrees. This was like nothing that we had ever encountered.
All I could see was his steady decline. He couldn’t eat or drink and so Amy would give him liquids through a dropper in the corner of his mouth to try and sustain him. We prayed like we have never prayed before and yet he seemed to only grow worse. I saw in his eyes the look that I’ve seen many times as a pastor when people get close to the end of their lives. He was fading away from us. We were losing him. I remember one day, about that time, driving in the car and yelling at God and begging him to take me instead of my son. I broke and cried gut wrenching tears and was finally able to ask God to help me to trust him no matter what the outcome would be. I had a sense of peace come over me that is truly unexplainable. I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew that it would be alright. About this same time, something changed with Levi as well. He didn’t improve at all, but where there had been fear in his eyes, there now was peace. We wouldn’t understand this radical shift until just a few months ago.
We were having family devotions and the Bible passage was talking about when God speaks to us. At the end of our discussion, I asked each member of the family to share a time when they had heard the voice of God. When Levi spoke, he teared up and said that when he was sick God spoke to him and told him he was going to heal him; he didn’t have to be afraid any more. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye in our living room as we contemplated together the unfathomable goodness of God. Obviously, the good news is that Levi did improve. We finally were sent to the CDC at Children’s Hospital and the director came in and took one look at him and said, “He has Steven’s Johnson Syndrome.”
We found out later that this was a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic that he had been given. She was amazed that he hadn’t had to be hospitalized. She had never seen that before. You see, most people who have this syndrome lose their skin like a burn victim, have their eyesight extremely compromised, and over 50% don’t make it. There were a few things that really helped this from not escalating to that level and they’re mostly due to my wife’s discernment and unwillingness to give up. She immediately stopped the antibiotic after the first signs of trouble and gave him Benadryl not knowing at the time the cause of his problem. Thank God for his wisdom.
That brings us to today’s reading from Romans 8. Verse 28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The hard thing for all of us to do, if we’re honest, is to believe this is true in the midst of hard times. We have a tendency to want to be the ones to define what the “good” is. What it looks like. The reality is that God in his providence is the only one who can clarify this for us. After all, it is his purpose that is to be accomplished not ours. Even though our story had a happy ending, I would never wish what we went through as a family upon anyone. Shockingly though, I wouldn’t want to change anything either. How can I say that? I had the privilege of baptizing Levi as he confessed publicly his faith in Jesus Christ a couple of months ago. He’s a brand new person. He has never been the same since the day that God spoke those life giving words to him in the midst of his deepest darkest night and I for one can’t wait to see what God is going to do with this special young man.