I recently led a Confirmation class where through the Chosen series Fr. Mike Schmitz posed the question: Why is that we have to praise God for all the good in our lives, but we can’t blame him for the things that go wrong? His answer was beautiful. He explained that God is like the sun a constant source of light and heat and all things good. However, cold and darkness exist in the absence of God. They are not from God, but when something gets in the way of God or we are too distant.
The lesson was about salvation history. I loved how it spelled out for the teens how Eve was without sin, was approached by an angel (the snake Lucifer) but did not trust God, which resulted in “the fall” of mankind. Mary was also a woman without sin, the angel Gabriel appeared to her, and she trusted God; she was obedient to His will which resulted in her delivering a Son that in turn delivered the world. We live in a fallen world. A world full of sin, we need saving. Having given way to our fallen nature our world now experiences suffering, death, disease; but made in the image and likeness of God we are all worth saving.
Our unborn son (Ian) has received a diagnosis of HLHS (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). His left ventricle is so underdeveloped, without divine intervention, it will never function. Three open heart surgeries (beginning shortly after birth) will be required to re-route blood and allow the right ventricle of his heart to do all the pumping. This is a defect of nature. It is not from God. Bad things don’t come from God. God only radiates love, joy, peace – goodness! Therefore, we have every hope that with enough prayer power we can lift this burden from Ian’s tiny shoulders. We believe in the power of God and in the power of prayer. So I invite you to pray with us for Jesus to heal Ian’s broken heart.
There is a cliché that states, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” But am I wrong that this seems to imply that our hardships come from God? I prefer the sentiment that if you ask God for help He will give you the strength, courage, endurance, and other gifts needed to handle whatever life gives you. I have shared in a previous blog, “If God is your co-pilot- switch seats!” It is even truer when you come to these patches in life of stormy weather. When bad weather makes for poor visibility, fear or even desperation can creep in as the future maybe unclear. But who could ask for a better captain during turbulent times than the Light of the world? Like Mary we must trust God. No one is guaranteed a smooth uneventful flight in life. But come rain, sleet, or snow if we seek Him, He will lead us through anything.
I am confident that although God didn’t choose this cross for our son He will consciously take control of it. He will either heal Ian or in His divine wisdom allow this to be a part of our journey to somehow further His kingdom. Part of salvation history that Fr. Mike speaks of is that Jesus didn’t just come to sacrifice himself as our savior. If that was all, he could have died for the world as an infant. He also came to establish a kingdom on earth; to establish a community, a church. And He sent the Holy Spirit to not only be a guide, but to be the soul of the body of Christ. In confirmation, Catholics believe that the candidates receive the Holy Spirit and become more fully a member of the body of Christ. At baptism, our parents and our community claim us for Christ and so we are part of that body. In confirmation, the candidates choose Christ and His community as their own and with that comes a tall order to continue His mission.
An unplanned pregnancy can be a very turbulent time. A planned pregnancy with a challenging diagnosis can also be difficult. Without a faith in God to lean on or a strong support system of people to help weather the storm, I can see how fear would fuel folks to take the easy way out and choose abortion. As the body of Christ we must be that support. We don’t reach out and help people because they are Catholic/Christian, but because we are.
I was saddened to come across in my research a study comparing the survival rates of children with HLHS (congenital heart defect my son Ian has). They compared the survival rates of babies with a prenatal diagnosis, and those that were not diagnosed until after birth. In the group that received a prenatal diagnosis 1/3 of them chose abortion! One out of four carried the pregnancy through, but did not opt for intervention thus resulting in the baby’s death within several days; this is termed compassionate care. That leaves 42% or 14 out of 33 prenatally diagnosed that went ahead with surgery and all of them survived- 100% survival! Of the 55 babies in the group that did not know ahead of time 31% chose compassionate care and 69% chose to go ahead with the surgery of which there was a 66% survival rate. The conclusion of the study was that a prenatal diagnosis is greatly beneficial to the post surgical survival rate (100% vs 66%) and also offers better pre-surgical health since the doctors are able to immediately offer palliative treatments. But if you count the 11 babies that did not survive their abortion the real post surgical survival rate in the group that received a prenatal diagnosis would have only been 56%! (Note: This study was done at Stanford University looking at cases from 1992-1999, the prenatal diagnosis is typically made at the 20 week ultrasound, survival rate statistics are typically measured at 30 days or one year post op). Today, 15 years later, survival rates are as high as ever, and parents of HLHS babies whether diagnosed pre or post-natally are still given compassionate care as an option.
Babies are the result of sex, sometimes we can clearly see God’s hand in the miracle of procreation. Other times, outside of marriage or perhaps within marriage when there is already a baby or too many other children pregnancy is seen as a curse, or a burden. But that’s not God; that is us and our human weakness. I would venture to say that God’s perfect design does not include unmarried teenagers having sex thus having children . . . but out of respect for our free will and due to well biology/nature this happens. Now, though this may not have been God’s original plan, that doesn’t mean God can’t take any situation, and radiate His love, joy, and goodness through it. Thus resulting in families blessed by children that they hadn’t planned on or adoptive families being blessed with children they wouldn’t otherwise have. So praise God for the sunshine!