Overwhelming Unknowns

I doubted I could do it. After all, how do you manage what you don’t even understand? Doctors had given up. Emergency rooms and hospitals had given up. But this wasn’t just a situation. This was a soul, a little boy, who desperately needed help.

Yet that didn’t make the challenge any better. It didn’t make it any easier. I still had no idea what to do. And that lack of answers and directions only fueled my doubt.

Countless blood tests and exams turned out nothing out of the ordinary.

A week-long hospital stay provided nothing but a big ol’ bill to add to the pile.

I was desperate, and so was Mark. And so my doubt grew even more.

My doubts were so numerous that one day I let myself go there. I got out a pen and paper and wrote down all my unanswered questions:

Why does Mark’s breath and skin smell so badly?
Why does his ability to communicate seem to come and go?
Why is he riddled with crippling pain some days and not others?
Is there a pattern?
What’s causing it all?
What can I do to affect it?
Is there anything I can do?

The questions flowed like water onto the page, my handwriting getting worse and worse as I struggled to write as quickly as I could. And the more I wrote, the more quickly even more questions came. I could feel my heart rate pick up and I began to wonder whether this was really a good idea or not.

Eventually, my hand started to cramp up, so I dropped the pen to give it a rest. That’s when I focused on one of the last questions I’d scribbled down:

Why isn’t anyone helping me?!

And that’s when my doubt turned to shame.

Doubt is common human experience. We all feel it. And there’s no shame in that. My shame was coming from how I was managing it—or rather my lack of managing it. I was allowing my doubt—and the overwhelming amount of unknowns—to overshadow and outweigh what I did know. There was no denying it. The writing wasn’t all over all the wall. It was all over the paper in front of me. Yikes.

That’s when I flipped it. I made a conscious effort to write down everything that I did know:

Some days were better than others for Mark.
He did seem to have reactions to some foods rather than others (despite the doctors saying it didn’t make sense).
No matter how Mark might struggle, I could help him choose and experience joy.

I wasn’t writing quickly anymore. While all the previous questions bubbled over easily, I admittedly had to search intentionally for these statements. But as I wrote—slowly and surely—I noticed that each of these statements became like anchors for me. Sure, there were a lot of unknowns. There was no denying that the questions (by far) outweighed the statements. But then I noticed that the shortest sentence of all still managed to outweigh everything else:

God is with me.

God knows those who run to Him (Nahum 1:7b). He’s near to those who call out to Him (Psalm 145:18). And He was—and still is—with me, even in the midst of my doubt. It was my fault for not recognizing His presence and claiming His help and rest.

Years have gone by now. And in a lot of ways, things have only become more complicated. Mark still struggles with intense physical pain. He makes small intellectual gains, but then regression and memory loss steal it all way. And ironically all the answers we’ve been able to to find have only lead to even more complex questions.

The situation hasn’t improved. I have.

Doubt still creeps in, sometimes even daily. But now, instead of letting it take over, I use it as a cue to go running to what I know. I cling to certainty. I claim safety in my anchor: God. And you can, too.

Grace to Grow On: Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20

Practical Help:

Purpose to separate what is self-created and what is reality, so that you can respond in appropriate ways.

Our feelings can be fickle, including doubt. They’re real in the sense that they are, in fact, what we’re experiencing. They describe how we’re reacting. But our feelings don’t always accurately reflect what’s truly going on.

Separate the two. Respect the two. But also know how to respond to each independently of one another.