After Pharaoh’s command that all male Hebrew infants were to be killed, his daughter finds baby Moses in the reeds of the Nile. She hires a Hebrew woman to nurse him; the woman just happens to be Moses’ own mother. Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt.
Two Israelite spies working for Joshua just happen to knock on Rahab’s door, a woman from the enemy’s land who would defy the king of Jericho to save the spies. Joshua and the Israelites defeat Jericho, and go on to conquer the Promised Land.
Widowed and vulnerable, returning home with nothing to her name, Ruth just happens to find work gleaning the field of her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, who marries her. Ruth and Boaz parent the grandfather of King David, whose direct descendants include Mary, mother of Jesus, and of course, the Christ Himself.
Moses, the spies and Rahab, Ruth and Boaz…these are some of my favorite stories in the Bible because they show us how God was always working in the details for the good of those who loved Him. Even the verse from Ruth begins with the phrase, “as it turned out”, which is code in the Bible for: Pay attention. God is up to something. He’s working in the details even when you can’t see the whole picture.
As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech (Ruth’s husband, who had passed away).
So to be clear: I do not believe in things just happening. I believe that God is in the details.
It is these five words that show up in my response to frequent questions of late like: Heather, what in the world happened? You made a living teaching others how to be healthy. How did you go from the poster child for health to someone with an average life expectancy of 48 years? And how are you coping with all that has happened?
I don’t have all the answers. I can’t see the whole picture. But I don’t need to. I know that God is in the details and that gives me great hope.
In the storm, in the battle, in the darkest of places, He is always working for our good. In the same way He allowed Moses’ own mother to nurse him after she placed him in the river thinking she would never see him again, in the same way He stirred Rahab’s heart to open her door to the spies, in the same way He provided a job opening for widowed Ruth in the field of the man who would eventually marry her, God is always working in our details.
So I will look for Him there.
It is early October. I have just finished subbing a Tuesday morning yoga class for a friend. I’ll spare you the details but some intense abdominal pain landed me in the emergency room for a few hours. We know now that the pain was due to a mesenteric artery aneurysm, which was caused by a genetic disorder (Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) making my blood vessels and arteries prone to spontaneous rupture. But because all of my lab results come back normal on this first visit, the ER doctor doesn’t recognize it as anything other than dehydration and he later sends me home.
As I am waiting to pass the drink-this-and-don’t-barf test, my nurse and I discover that we share a love for Jesus and yoga. We have a lovely conversation about these two things and later she finds me on my yoga blog.
As if it isn’t enough of a gift to simply have a beautiful conversation with a new friend, God had a deeper purpose in details of this conversation. When I later disclose on my yoga blog that I have been diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos, my ER nurse friend reads it and emails me to say this:
I knew God put us together for a reason. I have a friend with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. She welcomes the fact to talk with you if you would like.
To put this into perspective, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is rather rare. And my ER nurse, who happens to love Jesus, who happens to love yoga, and who happens to want to follow my blog where she would find out that I have EDS, also just happens to know someone else with this disorder.
Again, I do not believe in “just happens.” At the time that I met this nurse, I had never heard the words Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and we surely didn’t expect anything like that to be the culprit of my pain. But God knew. And He was working in my details that day.
Fast forward a few weeks in October and I am in the ER again, with more abdominal pain and also back pain radiating from my kidney. This time, I receive an admission ticket for a 5-day stay at the hospital. In case you need any clarification on my opinion about this, I’d rather be in Disney.
I am sent through the we-don’t-know-what’s-wrong-with-you-so-let’s-run-a-million-tests obstacle course, and I meet a handful of doctors. The quick run-down goes something like this…pay attention to Doctor #3:
- Doctor #1: “Looks like a kidney stone. Sounds like a kidney stone. Feels like a kidney stone. We think you have a kidney stone.”
- First round of test results: It’s not a kidney stone.
- Doctor #2: “You just had a miscarriage naturally at home and that can complicate things. We think you have a kidney infection.”
- Second round of test results: It’s not a kidney infection.
- Doctor #3: Rolls eyes at Doctor #1 and Doctor #2. “Your kidney function is fine. But you’re still in a lot of pain. I’m managing your care until you go home and I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” Exits with determined look on his face.
- Doctor #3, Nephrologist, and Radiologists #1-3: “This is a mystery. Let’s run a million more tests.”
- Third round of test results: Still no idea as to what is causing all the pain.
- Doctor #3: “I’m going to have a fourth radiologist look at your test results. I’m not satisfied with what radiologists #1-3 have interpreted.” Exits. Still with the determined look…
- Doctor #3, Nephrologist, and Radiologist #4: “We think you have an auto-immune disorder and we’re going to do one more test to confirm.”
- Fourth round of test results: Answers! I’ve had two aneurysms: a renal one (causing the pain to my kidney) and a mesentery one (causing the pain to my abdomen). Autoimmune disorder confirmed. Although not really because we now know it was Vascular Ehlers-Danlos causing all this mess, not an autoimmune disorder. Details on the Ehlers-Danlos part of the story coming soon.
- Doctor #3 and Rheumatologist: “You have an autoimmune disorder that is making your vascular system attack itself. There is no cure, but we can put it into remission with 4 months of steroids and 6 months of chemotherapy. Oh, by the way, we think this is what caused your colon to rupture in 2010, and it may be what caused your mother’s death at 37.” High-fives all around. Mystery solved…sort of, but not really because #ehlersdanlos.
- I start steroids, receive my first and only chemotherapy infusion, and go home the next day.
I don’t intend to bore you with the medical details; I am including the quick run-down of them here for this reason alone: It was perfectly reasonable for the first few doctors I saw in the ER to dismiss my pain as dehydration, a kidney stone, or a kidney infection. But Doctor #3 didn’t. He knew that something else was going on and he was determined to find the answer.
I am convinced that God was working in this doctor’s mind, spurring him along to get closer to the real answer. As it turned out, Doctor #3 was not satisfied with the easy answer and it was his determination to find the truth that started our journey towards the correct Ehlers-Danlos diagnosis.
If you’ve been following along with my story from the beginning, first of all, thank you! And second of all, the moment I am about to describe is quite possibly one of my most favorite parts of this story.
A few days into this first hospital stay, Tom and I were enjoying a peaceful moment of prayer time together. My hospital room was in an obscure part of the hospital; it was hard to find and not well-populated. In fact, I may have been the only patient on the floor. It felt sort of like a ghost-town.
The steady beeping of my IV slowly marked the seconds as they passed. Tom held my hand as I read my devotion for the day. He asked me to read it out loud, so I did. I am quite certain that my voice did not carry well. I was weary, emotional, and fearful of all the tests with no answers.
But even as I read aloud with a quiet voice, my nurse came in, curious as to what I was reading. She specifically asked what the Word was for the day, so I began to read the devotion and the Bible verses aloud one more time.
As my nurse stayed at my bedside to listen, another nurse wandered in the hallway. Hearing the words being read, she stopped at my door to listen. Another hospital employee appeared in the hallway. He stuck his head in my room to listen. And another came. Pulled by the attraction of the sheer love pouring out of the scripture that I read, words straight from the voice of God Himself, they all stayed. They all listened. And for several beats that followed the last word that I read, no one said a word.
If the presence of God was detectable with eyesight alone, we would have all been blinded that morning. But you didn’t need special vision, special hearing, or special anything to recognize that Jesus stood among us. His presence was so palpable you could feel it on your skin.
Tom and I ask them how we can pray for them and each member of the blessed group gathered around my hospital bed shares their requests. We promise to keep them in our prayers.
The man in the hallway with a foreign accent looks me straight in the eye and tells me that I am going to be just fine. That he doesn’t know why I am in the hospital, but he knows that God is going to take care of me.
I think back often now on the conviction I heard in this man’s voice as he tells me the truth we all long for anytime we are faced with pain and suffering: we don’t know why this bad thing has happened, but it’s okay. We know that God will take care of us. This man was so content with not knowing the plan, because he was focused on the One who does.
We will never have all the answers, but we don’t need them. And we don’t need to understand the whole picture to find evidence of God working in our stories. We just need to look expectantly for God in the details. He is always working there.
Even this month, as I venture out on a slow and brief walk around the park, my first attempt at any form of exercise since October, I meditate on how God wants me to frame this part of the story and God shows up in all my details along the walk. I pass by a tree, split open by what looks like lightning, the scar left in the shape of a heart.
After an evening of heavy storms, leaves, branches, dirt, and broken flowers were scattered along the path. But so many treasures were there waiting to be found in the midst of the debris, in the details. Even as the trees still carried the weight of the rain, the birds sang out, they rejoiced after the storm. And so will I.
Lord, let us remember your presence in the storm, not the storm itself. Let us think back upon the deep waters we have crossed and praise your faithfulness. Give us minds that remember your Holy Spirit with us always…your goodness…your mercy. Give us hearts that recognize your presence in our details everyday. You are with us in the storm. You are working for our good.
Suffering with health concerns? God is in your details. Reeling from a loved one’s death? God is in your details. Struggling with financial burdens? God is in your details. Hurting from a broken marriage? God is in your details. Bitter with disappointment and shattered dreams? God is in your details. Concerned with a heavy decision? God is in your details.
He is there. And He is working for your good. Look for Him. Look anxiously and expectantly for Him in the details. He will be found there.