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“Jackson, are you ok?” I asked.  It was a Sunday morning.  We were getting ready for church, but he didn’t look good.  “Yes,” he replied, “I’m just tired.  I didn’t sleep well.”  Hmm, both of my boys are good sleepers, so if he didn’t sleep well, something was wrong.  “Were you too hot or too cold?” I inquired.  “No, I just kept waking up and couldn’t get comfortable,” he replied.  A closer look at his eyes revealed that he wasn’t well.  He didn’t have a fever, but it seemed best to stay home from church.  Shortly after lunch, Jackson became very tired and started running a low-grade fever.  That was the first of many fevers, as Jackson would be sick for the next five weeks with an illness that doctors would struggle to diagnose.

It was the middle of the summer before Jackson’s 8th grade year.  He had been attending summer football conditioning.  We were amazed at how fit he was becoming, impressed with muscles growing on his young teen body.  I watched him during workouts.  He was doing great!  In fact, Jackson was in excellent shape.  Surely he just had a summer “bug” of some kind.  I would have to keep him home from football the next day since he had a fever, but expected him to be fine with a day of rest. By Wed he was still running fevers in the afternoon, and had mentioned his knee hurt – probably a strain from football, so we went to see his pediatrician.  By the end of that visit, her casual, easy-going tone turned one of concern.  Instead of a prescription for an antibiotic, she handed me information for lab work she wanted to have done for Jackson.  Something was wrong.  And, so, we prayed…

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.  – Psalm 17:6

The first round of blood tests ruled out cancer, leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis (praise for that!), but gave no clue as to what was wrong. By the time we returned to the pediatrician for a follow-up visit, he had lost five pounds and was noticeably weaker as symptoms worsened each day.  There were more tests in the next two weeks, but no answers.  By the end of three weeks, Jackson had lost 15 pounds. Fevers were still happening every afternoon, preceded by terrible chills. Jackson was so weak that he could no longer go up and down the stairs to his room, and sometimes could not finish eating his food because it tired him to eat.  Jackson was now very sick.  Doctors could not find a diagnosis. How much longer would this illness last, and how much worse would it get?  We were scared.  And, so, we prayed…

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation (affliction), be constant in prayer.”  Romans 12:12 (ESV)

By this time, family, friends and people from our school were learning of Jackson’s illness.  They sent emails and cards to express their care and concern, shared encouragements, and asked to receive updates so they could pray for Jackson.  What a comfort that was!  One night, Jackson even received a surprise delivery of hot Krispy Kreme donuts from one of his friends.  That sweet gesture was an encouragement for all of us.

Prayers and encouragements were reassuring, especially when my husband and I would look at Jackson’s once fit body and be shocked by how quickly it was wasting away.  The color of his skin looked bad, too.   How could someone so fit and athletic become so sick and weak in just a few weeks?! Overwhelmed by what was happening, sometimes all I could pray was, “God, please help him.”  However, I knew other people were also praying for Jackson.  Where our prayers left off, their prayers picked up. I started claiming Psalm 103, especially verses 1-5, and shared the passage with others. We claimed the Bible’s promise that God is a God of benefits Who heals our diseases, and found hope that Jackson’s youth would be “renewed like the eagle’s.”  We believed in the healing and restorative power of God.  And, so, we prayed…

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16

It was the fourth week of the illness.  Jackson had undergone extensive tests and multiple rounds of lab work.  Specialists at the Children’s Hospital had done all they could.  By this time, the fevers were starting to subside and Jackson was starting to feel a little better.  It was determined that he had a “fever of unknown origin.”  Doctors said we would likely never know the cause of his illness.  Hopefully it would not return.  As sick as Jackson was, this was unsettling and troubling.  Fortunately, his pediatrician and one of the specialists weren’t satisfied with that diagnosis.  The specialist said there was one test that hadn’t been done, a bone scan.  He was hopeful the bone scan would yield a diagnosis.  The bone scan did reveal nine areas of “hot spots” in Jackson’s bones where inflammation was present, but there was no sign of infection to explain the inflammation.  This was not what the doctor was expecting.  We were thankful that we finally had evidence of underlying symptoms, but doctors were still baffled as to the cause of the illness.  We still needed answers.  And, so, we prayed…

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it, with thanksgiving.  – Colossians 4:2

Jackson’s case was presented to a team of specialists who confer on difficult cases.  Our greatest hope for a diagnosis was with them.  We rallied our praying friends, asking them to pray for God to lead those doctors in knowledge and wisdom to figure out what was wrong.  Jackson had been sick for five weeks now.  He was missing the start of the school year, and longing to return to football.  He was tired of being sick, and tired of living on the couch.  He wanted to be healthy and well again, and we wanted that for him!  Everything seemed to hinge on the outcome of the doctors’ findings.  And, so, we prayed…

Two days later, our pediatrician called with the results.  Because the team of specialists had not been able to make a  diagnosis with the case information given at their meeting, they each went home to research further and make a determination on their own, individually.  After contacting each physician, our pediatrician said they had unanimously made the SAME diagnosis of a rare auto-inflammation/auto-immune disease that affects the bones, Chronic Recurrent Multi-focal Osteomyelitis (CRMO).  She explained that for an unknown reason, inflammation had formed in Jackson’s bones (remember his initial knee pain?), and the inflammation caused the body to think there was illness, so the body’s immune system triggered an epic attack against infection that was not there, resulting in the fevers, weakness, and weight loss.  As soon as we could rid the body of inflammation, the symptoms would go away.  We finally had a diagnosis, and would be able to manage the illness!  Hooray and praise the Lord! God heard our prayers and led the specialists, individually, to a unanimous diagnosis!   We were humbled, grateful, thankful, and overjoyed.  And, so, we prayed…

I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good.  I will praise you in the presence of your saints.  – Psalm 52:9

In follow-up: It has been a year since Jackson was diagnosed with CRMO.  He still has fatigue and requires more sleep than usual, but otherwise is doing well.  We are very thankful that we have been able to manage CRMO on our own (many patients rely on treatment from injections).  Jackson has had set-backs from the illness, but no full flare-ups.  He was able to return to sports, and he was able to start school with everyone else this year!  Praise for all those things!    I truly believe Jackson is doing as well as he is because of the many prayers that covered him while he was sick, and the prayers that continued this past year during his recovery.  We will always be grateful for each person who prayed and for every prayer said on his behalf.

Sometimes it seems  like all we can do is pray.   That’s ok because the BEST thing we can do is pray!

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I didn’t plan to start the new year by reading the Book of Job, but after asking what lesson we were on in a Bible study, the leader’s reply was, “Ironically, Job.”  It was ironic because the book of Job is based on a man’s suffering, and the reason I was behind in my Bible studies was because we’ve had suffering of our own.  I’ll be honest.  At first I dreaded the thought of reading the Book of Job. I wanted something positive!  But you know what?  As I began reading, I was reminded of the many positive lessons it teaches.  Reading Job ended up being a great way to start the year.  Following are some of the positive lessons I found in the Book of Job:

  • God is in control.  Even when things were as bad as they could get for Job.  God maintained control.    God is in control of the struggles in our lives, too.  Deuteronomy 31:6 promises that God will never leave us or forsake us.  I believe God is especially with us when we’re struggling, even though we don’t always realize it at the time.
  • God had authority over Satan.  God had authority over Satan during the time of Job, and God shares that authority with Jesus, our Victor,  who has authority over Satan now.  Yes, we live in a fallen world, which means that sometimes Satan wins a battle, but it is Jesus who wins the war.  As long as we’re on Christ’s team, we can claim authority over Satan, too, in Jesus’ name.
  • How to be a good friend for someone who is suffering.  For seven days, Jobs friends just sat in silence with him.  Their presence was was a comfort to him.  ( 2:11-13)
  • When someone is suffering or struggling, unless they ask for an opinion or advice, the best words to offer are those of love and encouragement. Too often, when friends or loved ones are struggling, we want to “fix” things and impose with unsolicited opinions, analysis, and advice, often telling the other person what they should do.  We speak to address our feelings, not the feelings of the one who is suffering.  (I’m very guilty of this!)   Jobs friends show that isn’t always best.  Often what others need most is someone to just listen patiently and respond with love, encouragement, and support.
  • I’m reminded what an awesome Creator our God is, and how powerful!  In chapters 38 – 41 God responds to Job’s cries of anguish by reminding Job of who He is, a God who did amazing things when creating us and this world.  Yes, God is rebuking Job, but as I read these things I’m reminded of God’s power and authority.  I’m humbled by God’s awesomeness, and this encourages me when I realize this is who our God is!  The same God who did all these amazing things is the same God who is there for us now.  If God is capable of creating the world and tending to all the details, surely He is capable of taking care of needs and details of our lives!  
  • Regardless of what is taken away in life, we can still maintain our faith.
  • God is gracious, compassionate and merciful.  God had mercy on Job when he humbled himself before God.  (Chapter 42)
  • God is just. God sought justice from Job’s friends who were wrong in their assertions about God.  (42:7-9)
  • We are to pray for our offenders. (42:8-9) 
  • We are blessed when we obey God and seek to live in righteousness.  (42:10-17)     

These were encouragements for me.  I hope they will be encouraging for you, too!  I also hope you’ll set aside time to read the Book of Job and be open to God so that He can speak messages of hope and encouragement to you, too!

Happy New Year!  God bless you.

The Book of Isaiah is from the Old Testament of the Bible.  Isaiah was a prophet.  Prophets were those whom God called to give His messages to His chosen people. 

Early in the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to be His chosen people to be holy, righteous, and a light to the pagan/evil people around them.  God proved His power and might to them time and time again.  He blessed them when they were obedient to His laws, and allowed punishment when they ‘became evil in His sight’ by worshiping idols instead of Him, putting their trust in ‘man’ and not having faith in Him to provide for their needs.  By this time the people were ruled by kings and often battled other nations.  When the Israelites were under the rule of godly kings, they were given victories and prospered.  When they were ruled by evil kings and followed the sinful ways of these kings, God allowed them to be defeated.  Often the people were too caught up in themselves to make the connection of blessings for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior. 

God wanted so much for the Israelites to turn to Him and turn away from their evil practices!  Time and time again He sent prophets to the kings and Israelite people to warn them of impending punishment if they continued with their sinful ways.  Time and time again the people ignored the messages of the prophets.  Eventually God enacted the consequences He’d warned about.  The Israelites were taken into captivity by their enemies. (Israel fell to the Assyrians.  Judah was taken by Babylonians). 

Their time in captivity was long and tough, but God was always there with them.  He could have banished them from His favor, but as any loving Father would do, He wisely used their punishment to bring them around to right living and proved His ever faithful love to them.

In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 40, Isaiah the prophet is giving God’s message to those in captivity, and this is a summary of the comforting and reassuring words he says (shared in my paraphrase):

Comfort, O comfort my people…’Tho the grass withers and the flowers fade, the Word of God lasts forever.  The Sovereign Lord iscoming!  He’ll rule with awesome strength, bring rewards, carry His lambs close to His heart, and gently lead the mother with her young. 

Do not be afraid to shout this good news!  God is so great!  He held the oceans in His hands, measured the heavens with His fingers, and knows the weight of the world.  He is so wise that no one is wiser to advise the Spirit of the Lord.  No one compares to Him!  Can God be compared to inanimate idols that can’t even hold themselves up?  Even God Himself asks, “To whom can I be compared?  Who is my equal?”

God called the stars by name and counts them to make sure none are lost. 

This is our everlasting God!  Our Creator!  He never weakens or grows weary.  None of us can comprehend the depth of His righteousness. It is this powerful and mighty God who sees us and hears us!  He gives us strength when we feel weak and empowers us when we are tired and worn out.  Yes, “Those who wait upon the LORD will find new strength.  They will fly high like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”   – Isaiah 40:31

Please read those passages again (either paraphrase above or from your own Bible) and read them as if God is saying them to YOU.  

The same powerful God described by Isaiah is the same powerful God who is there for us today!  And don’t we need Him?  As I write this post, I am praying that you will find strength, confidence, hope, and be full of praise for your LORD when you read those verses!   Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, our everfaithful, ever loving God and Heavenly Father, is there to comfort and deliver you, too.  Praise be to God!  And God bless you.

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