One year ago, my mother had a stroke. In fact, she suffered from a very rare, very severe, usually deadly brain bleed. She was taking a new medication at the same time, so we initially wrote off her symptoms as an allergic reaction to the medicine. By the time I saw her, her brain had been bleeding for a week. She had gotten lost on her way to church, double billed clients at work, been in a car accident but driven away without stopping, left her house unlocked at night, and almost set her kitchen on fire.
The first night she was in the hospital, she was in what is called a neuro-critical care unit. I was allowed to visit her as much as I wanted, but I wasn’t allowed to sleep there. Instead, there was a waiting room at the end of an awfully long hallway. I spent the night curled up under a sweatshirt, my earbuds jammed deep into my ears, the hymns of my childhood playing repeatedly on my phone. I was trying to drown out the snoring of the man asleep in the fold-out chair, and I was trying to drown out the voices in my head telling me that my mother was going to die (and it was my fault). I huddled in an uncomfortable pleather chair, shivering in the cold and dark, tears streaming down my face, begging God to be extremely close to me.
And He was.
Easily, that was the longest night of my life. Every hour I walked that long hallway to check on my mom, who was, blessedly, mostly unaware of what was happening, between the drugs they had given her and the bleeding in her brain that had rendered her a bit loopy. The nurses were fantastic, and assured me, continually, that she was not going to die – that I could go to sleep for a few hours. In fact, I think they even encouraged me to go home. But I retreated to my cold, uncomfortable chair each time, plugged my phone back in, shoved the earbuds in my ears, and hit “repeat album” on my phone.
The hymns of my church, of my childhood years, are hymns full of theological truth, Scripture, God’s Word. A few months earlier, I had purchased an album full of them on a whim, when I had an iTunes gift card, and I didn’t know what else to buy. “Amazing Grace,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “It Is Well,” “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Just As I Am,” “Rock of Ages,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “Abide With Me,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Close to Thee.” There are fifty classic hymns, sung by a choir, that I carry with me, everywhere I go.
Every song, every chorus, every word…at first, I choked back tears and sobbed as quietly as I could. I pictured my mom standing next to me at church, singing her heart out, worshiping her Savior. Then, as I continued to let the soothing words of the hymns pour over me, and into me, I realized that every word was true. God is great. God is good. God is love. Jesus died on the cross so that we can walk with Him eternally. God is close. I do need God every hour. I needed Him more that night than ever before in my life.
And it was well with my soul.
Imagine the shock I felt when I realized I was effortlessly recalling Scripture, and I was drawing great comfort from and could feel the Holy Spirit near me.
In John 14:26-27, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” When you constantly study Scripture, it is impressed upon your heart, and you recall it when you need it. That is something the Holy Spirit does for us.
Philippians 4:4-7 promises us “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I cannot explain the peace I felt that night. When I finally saw friends, they actually remarked they could see the peace of God upon me. It is real. I asked God to stop the guilty thoughts, and the scary thoughts, and the thoughts that my mom was going to die. I called upon Him, I prayed this verse – and those thoughts stopped.
The hymn “It is Well” is one of my all-time favorites. “Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” I have never been able to sing this hymn, as an adult, without crying. That night, as I listened to that particular hymn over and over, I heard this, from Hebrews 4:14-16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I knew that Jesus was right there with me. I knew from Scripture, from the account of the Garden of Gethsemane, that He knows suffering, and pain, and sadness. I know from Scripture and the account of the death of Lazarus that He understands death and the accompanying sadness. I also knew that I could boldly and confidently cry out to my God, in the depths of my pain, fear, and sorrow, and He would hear me and help me.
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown” transitioned seamlessly into “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.” This was followed by “In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever; till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.”
My mother loves Jesus. She believes in and trusts Jesus. If she had died that night, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she would enter into the open arms of Jesus. I knew that I would survive the darkness of the night, I would survive whatever would happen. I had that peace that surpasses all comprehension, because I certainly cannot explain how I knew I would be okay, but the Holy Spirit made me know it was true.
Four days later my mom left the hospital. She lived with us for two months before moving back home, about an hour away. Two months ago she moved into an apartment down the road from us.
Two weeks ago the doctors declared her completely healed.
Jesus is my hope, my anchor in every storm. Hebrews 6:17-20 promises us this: “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enter within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Do you have that hope? Can you cling to Jesus in every storm? Is He your only anchor?
An anchor doesn’t stop the storms from coming – it just prevents you from being dashed to pieces on the rocks or drifting completely off course.
I could have easily been shattered one year ago, sitting in that cold, dark, lonely waiting room at 3 am. Instead, I clung to my anchor, my hope, my God. And I knew, no matter the ending – healing here on earth, or healing of my mom in Heaven, I had Jesus with me every single second. I had hope, and I had peace.
“I hear the Savior say, thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all.”