This month, my family will mark significant dates on the calendar – some birthdays, our wedding anniversary, but the most significant is the third anniversary of my daughter’s successful stem cell transplant. And the one word that’s on our hearts is: gratitude.
Back in December 2018, my wife (who had just completed her overseas posting) and I were preparing to settle down to a “proper” retirement as both our children had graduated and are making progress in their careers. We envisaged some travelling, catching up with family and friends and participating and serving more in church ministries and activities.
Then God threw us a curveball……
On January 21, 2019, my daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia. Shock, loss, confusion and fearful whys and how comes filled our minds. As we looked back, we just wonder how we got through it all, if not for the grace of God. Her treatment process was filled with challenges and unknowns. Initial chemotherapy failed, and a more aggressive approach with possible severe complications was proposed. Finally, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant was the only way to go, and the search for suitable donors began. Don’t ask me how, but by God’s mercies and grace, the wave after wave of challenges and problems were overcome one by one, and indeed all things just fell into place like a big jigsaw puzzle orchestrated by the hand of God. It was really a rollercoaster ride, and honestly no, we did not blame God. Somehow, we were experiencing the deep sense of where God was leading us through this journey.
During one of those deep dark days, as I was walking towards the ward for my daily visits, reflecting on the LORD’s leading, Jeremiah 33.3 seemed to flash right across me:
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Still with some apprehension, but nevertheless a sense of peace came over me. I chose to trust and shared this conviction first with my family and then my SG members and caring, praying friends.
Perhaps the most difficult time to be thankful is when we’re in the midst of a setback, a challenge, or a trial. When the storm comes, giving thanks is rarely our first reaction. Being thankful for adversity is never easy, but it is always right. From experience I know the difficult times are the ones in which God seems to be most at work in our lives, strengthening our weak spots, comforting our hurts, and drawing us to greater dependence. According to the wise saying: “Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees”, we are reminded never to forget to praise and thank God for the strong winds that He allows to come our way.”
Given a choice, we’ll want to draw back from difficulties, yet not one of us is exempt from some kind of trouble. But in the midst of those trials, we can thank God, because we know that He has promised to be with us and that He will help us. We know that He can use times of suffering to draw us closer to Himself.
And on October 22, 2019, by God’s providence, a brother’s stem cells were gifted to his sister. The cell integration was remarkably good, and she is recovering well. All glory and praise to Him.
So, it has been a good 3 years. His mercies and grace are ever in abundance, fresh and new every morning. We want to again express our gratitude to Almighty God, and our praying and supportive friends throughout this journey, and echo the words of the prophet Isaiah:
For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat (Isaiah 25.4)