One of my favorite books is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I’ll never forget the thrill as a young teenager of actually getting to see her in person. It was one of the highlights of my life. God recently brought to mind a heartfelt exchange in the book between Corrie and her father, when she was a young girl. Corrie was upset thinking about her father dying someday. As was his habit, he sat down at the edge of her bed to tuck her in.
“Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam – when do I give you your ticket?”
Corrie sniffed a few times, “Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things too. Don’t rush ahead of Him. When the time comes…you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”
That moment in the book came flooding back to my memory while we were about to get on a train that was completely unfamiliar to us and that we were unprepared for. Our lively 13-year-old daughter was facing serious surgery. I heard my Heavenly Father’s whisper amidst my fears, “When will I give you the ticket?”
“When I get on the train.” And as we were just about to board the train, watching the daughter we loved being wheeled into surgery, God gave us the ticket we needed – a ticket overflowing with grace, a supernatural strength enabling us to deal with the moment at hand, passengers He provided to come along with support for the journey, and a grace that enabled us to know that it can be well with our souls even when it’s not well with our circumstances. Your loving Father knows all about your present circumstances and need, and is waiting to hand you the ticket. His supply never runs dry; it is never overburdened. He is never surprised. Interestingly, He doesn’t promise help before help is needed. No ─ when we are on the edge of our need ─ His hand is stretched out.
Now almost five months after our daughter’s surgery, she has still not fully recovered. Emotionally draining long days are filled with chronic pain, confusion, a lack of acceptable answers, more medical tests and endless doctor’s appointments, but God continues to remind me of the ticket. As the Conductor of our lives, He knows the way of the journey we take. He sees the bends in the track and the dark tunnels ahead. Daily, I hold on to the knowledge that God is ever present and that especially as a mom of a suffering child He has given me what author and speaker Jennifer Rothschild calls “spectator grace” – a special grace for those of us who have to watch the ones we love walk with pain and difficulty.
My mind has raced back through the years of difficult trains we have boarded before. Without exception, God provided the ticket. He has seen us through. I know this time will be no different. That reality keeps me going. “I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God” (Isaiah 43:1-3, italics mine). We must get on the train and into the journey before we can claim the promise. When we get on the train His presence is there; He walks with us. God also continues to give us “crisis grace” as we walk through our daughter’s illness. In the trials is where His power and work are displayed best – in the tough spot that tries our faith, because true faith counts on God and believes before it sees. This faith sustains us in the most trying places, when everything around us seems to contradict God’s Word.
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
We are waiting. We have not yet reached our destination – for whatever reason, it’s not time for us to get off the train. I don’t know what’s around the bend, where this journey intends to take us. I do know that God’s ticket of grace continues to be sufficient in this place. And in the words of Father ten Boom, our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things. When the time comes, we will look into our hearts and find the strength we need – just in time.
*First printed in Just Between Us Magazine fall, 2008 (justbetweenus.org)
SHELLY ESSER has been the editor of Just Between Us (justbetweenus.org), a magazine to encourage and equip women for a life of faith, for the last 26 years. Additionally, she is an author and freelance editor. For the last 15 years, she has been caring for her chronically ill daughter and husband. Her heart and passion is to walk alongside women to help them deepen their faith, and bring encouragement and hope, especially in life’s difficulties. She and her husband have four daughters, a son-in-law, and live in suburban Milwaukee, WI.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.