By Pastor Jeff Diedrich
It has been almost eight years ago since it happened but few details escape my mind over the years as I recall the birth of our oldest boy, Zachary. With all our children’s births, there is the joy and anticipation of a new life entering the world. What a thrill to cut the cord and hold your child for the very first time!
Joy soon turned to sorrow as we realized that there was a problem. On the third day of his new life, Zachary was taken for X-rays and they saw he had meconium ileus which is an intestinal blockage. Surgery was scheduled for our baby to correct the problem. During the procedure, he went “code blue” and we almost lost our precious boy. After the procedure the doctor sat with my wife and I and told us that there was a good chance that our boy had Cystic fibrosis.
Those words fell upon us like a great weight around our neck. A million questions rattled in our heads. What is CF? How do you get rid of it? Why would God allow this? We later found out that CF is a genetic disease in which both parents must carry the recessive gene of CF. When two carriers like Camille and I have children there is a 25% chance that each child we have will be given CF. As we read more, we found out that CF is a disease which produces thick mucus that plugs up the airways of the lungs, the pancreas, intestines and other ducts. CF patients are very susceptible to germs and must be very careful to stay away from people who are sick as well as germs in general. Every day they must do physical therapy to keep the thick mucus out of their lungs.
That night we went back to our room in the Ronald McDonald house and cried. I was in desperate need to understand what had just happened. Where in the Bible could I turn to better understand the theology of CF? Did God have a word on this matter? We needed hope.
The Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 139 which talks about the omnipresence of God. The more I read the more I realized that there is not a place on earth that God is not present- even the womb of a mother. When I read verses 13-16, I was washed over with a sense of hope.
For You formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works. And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.
The more I read the more my mind became settled about the matter. This text showed me that God was in Camille’s womb and intentionally took my recessive gene and stitched it together with her recessive gene in order to give Zachary CF. The word form refers to a potter carefully shaping clay. Skillfully wrought speaks of someone with great skill who weaves a beautiful tapestry. This was intentional.
No longer did medical percentages apply to our situation because God could have decided not to give any of our kids CF, perhaps they would only be carriers or completely free of any trace of CF. It gave us great comfort to know that our loving God was present at the moment of conception when our children became human beings. Our God does not arbitrarily reach into His cosmic bag of pain and scatter it upon the earth. God does not waste pain like that. He has a goal. A mission. A purpose.
Understanding this, how could our reaction be anything short of verse 14? This is the theology of pain that I was looking for. It is a good thing we were tutored early, because in 2006 Elijah was born with CF as well. As parents, we do not know what the future holds but we do know that God knows the number of all our days (v.16) and that with those days we want God to wring every bit of glory out of this disease so we can collectively say wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.
Editor’s Note: Jeff Diedrich is associate pastor at Abundant Life Baptist Church in Washington, PA. I have known Jeff for 25 years and have witnessed the grace of God in his life through numerous trials. His testimony in this post is a great encouragement to those who watch their children suffer.