LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
None of us knows the future, but those caring for children with chronic health conditions must often navigate a heavy fog covering the path in front of us. It’s thick with questions, unknowns, and uncertainties.
We can wonder “Who will care for my child if something happens to me?” “Will my son ever marry?” “Is college—or a career—even an option for my daughter?”
As already mentioned in my previous post, three of my five children have Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a serious genetic condition that puts them at risk for liver or lung disease over time. This is how the condition operates: their bodies don’t create a protein called antitrypsin which God designed to protect the lungs; the lack of antitrypsin leaves them vulnerable. Instead, their bodies create a renegade version of that same protein that clogs the liver.
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Although it felt devastating at the time, my children’s diagnosis at a young age was actually a blessing in disguise. Many people with Alpha-1 aren’t diagnosed until they present with significant, irreversible lung or liver damage, but because my husband, Scott, and I know that their lungs are prone, we help our children avoid things that accelerate lung damage (like smoke). We aggressively treat their childhood illnesses to minimize further impact. Even so, we don’t know how Alpha-1 will affect their bodies over time.
This can make it hard to know what to pray for our children as we look to the future. Maybe you face a similar dilemma. Listed here are four things we can all pray for our children with chronic health conditions:
1. WE PRAY FOR THE SALVATION OF OUR CHILDREN’S SOULS
Even before our children were diagnosed with any health challenges, their souls were diagnosed with sin (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23). As serious as their medical situations might be, their sin problem is more serious in the eyes of God. We can pray that the Lord would open their hearts and give them faith, even child-like faith, to trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9). Perhaps God would even use their suffering as his means to draw them to himself.
2. WE PRAY FOR RELIEF AND HEALING IN SUFFERING
Our God is both Creator and Healer, and he extends compassion toward his children (Psalm 103:13-14). We’re urged to “Pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Relief or healing may take many different forms, but each time our children are sick, we pray for God’s mercy toward them. As we look further down the road, we hope for their full healing in heaven (Revelation 21:4).
3. WE PRAY OUR CHILDREN WOULD KNOW THE JOY OF THE LORD
During a difficult time in Israel’s history, the leader Nehemiah encouraged God’s people, “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Knowing that our children may experience a degree of suffering in this life, we pray not only for grace to “endure suffering” (2 Timothy 4:5) but also that they may experience the joy of Christ amid their hardship.
4. WE PRAY THAT GOD WOULD REDEEM OUR FAMILY’S TRIAL
Our suffering isn’t an end in itself, and our redeeming God can take even the most difficult trial and work for our good and his glory in it. We boldly ask the Lord not to waste any of our suffering but that all of it would be meaningful in light of eternity: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
These are weighty things to pray, but it’s a privilege to pray them on behalf of some of the people we love most—our children.
One thing a chronic condition does is put so many things in perspective. Concerns about the length of a child’s days or the quality of his or her life are heavy, but sometimes they force us to consider what really matters — things like eternity.
While I still pray that my children will experience many of the wonderful gifts God gives on earth, it’s with a sober recognition that things like marriage, education, and careers are temporary. Even more important is the trajectory of our children’s souls and where and how they will spend eternity. These things matter so much more.
Whether or not I’m able to be with my children on their hardest days, I hope that they would know the Lord and His Presence with them, and I send my prayers ahead of them. In the meantime, I thank God for the gift of each of my children, the honor of being their mom, and for all He is teaching me through them.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1) What are some of your concerns for your children and their future?
2) In Philippians 4:6, we read “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” According to this verse, how can you take those same concerns and turn them into prayers for your children?
3) What encouragement do you take away from this series on praying for our children?
Katie is the author of He Will Be Enough: How God Takes You by the Hand Through Your Hardest Days, God Is Still Good: Gospel Hope and Comfort for the Unexpected Sorrows of Motherhood, and Loving My Children: Embracing Biblical Motherhood. A pastor's wife and mother to five, Katie lives with her family in New Jersey. To learn more, visit katiefaris.com.