I watched helplessly as she kicked her legs against the hospital gown and tried to cough. Tears were sliding down her cheek. Her eyes were filled with panic and blinked rapidly at the stark hospital lights. I wondered why they couldn’t just let her stay asleep. Why did they have to wake her up to pull out the breathing tube? As nurses scurried around her and the doctor quietly observed, my little friend struggled. She was desperate to cough and take a normal breath, but they weren’t quite ready to pull the darn tube out yet. I unconsciously started holding my own breath. Finally the nurses cleared the last pieces of tape holding the tube in place. They gently but firmly pulled until the surprisingly long tube was all the way out. My little friend coughed and cried and took in some big breaths. I sighed relief myself.
But why did she have to be awake? They had purposely taken her off of her sedation medication. I wondered why they would want her to experience that. What I learned was that they wanted her to struggle. They wanted her to cry and cough and get a little bit excited. Because in her struggle, she would take big, deep breaths. Oxygen would fill not only the superficial areas of her lungs, but the deep small parts that were clogged with fluid. Just like a baby chick hatching out of its shell, my little friend needed the strength earned from struggle in order to truly heal.
This experience stayed with me. I thought about my own life, about my own struggles. I realized that many of the times that I have felt God’s love and presence most deeply in my life have been when I have struggled. I remember once praying and praying and praying until my eyes burned with tears to ask for a friend to be healed. I pleaded and begged. I lost track of time. My senses were sharpened and my heart was awakened. I felt an intense desire to drink deeply God’s word and His love. My superficial spiritual breathing deepened that night, and I took a deep breath. I let it fill me. Ultimately my friend did not get healed. But my heart had changed. In my struggle, God’s life-giving love sank deeper into me and I myself was spiritually healed a little bit.
Oh, how we wish it wasn’t so. But struggle gives us strength. When have you struggled and felt God closer to you?
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