By J.J. Jasper
After losing our only son, Cooper, in an accident on our family farm, you can imagine the excitement we felt knowing we had twins on the way and one of the babies was a boy! For the record, we weren’t just surprised that we were expecting—we were shocked! After the shock wore off, the joy and gratitude settled in. We had babies on the way!
Because we were older parents and expecting twins, my wife, Melanie, was considered high risk. Along with that label came mandatory visits with a maternal fetal medicine specialist. One of the visits revealed what he described as a “soft marker” that indicated both babies could possibly have Down syndrome. He assured us that it was only a slight indication and for us not to worry.
Unlike Melanie’s other pregnancies, there were complications with the twins. They almost arrived at 29 weeks and Melanie was put on strict bed rest. The babies came at 34 weeks and were placed in the NICU. We named our beautiful baby girl Teagan Claire, and our sweet son Bode Ellis. A few days after their births the doctor informed us that blood tests revealed Bode had Down syndrome.
The news wasn’t just discouraging; it was devastating. I’m ashamed to admit my early feelings. I’m sure my selfish reaction early on would rival a two-year-old’s temper tantrum in the candy aisle of the grocery store. Thoughts of, “This is not fair!” “We don’t deserve this!” etc. flooded my mind.
The news was upsetting to Melanie but she handled it much better than I did. After we privately processed the information, we gathered three of our daughters, went through a fast food drive-thru, grabbed some burgers, and then went to a park to tell our girls. After we ate our burgers I explained the reason for our impromptu picnic.
Maddie, our 12 year old, said, “Oh, he’s going to be awesome! Down’s kids are so kind and they’re so sweet and so loving.”
Our 14 year old, Sadie, said, “Oh, I’m so glad they were born into our family. We’ll love him unconditionally and he’ll love us the same. Down’s children are just so adorable.”
I was not, however, prepared for the next thing Maddie said, “But wait, you said you had some bad news. What’s the bad news?”
Children get it! I couldn’t be prouder of my daughters. Melanie and the girls passed the test. Me? Not so much. They realized that every life is beautiful. Babies are a gift from God. All babies. They may not come in the package that we desire or expect but they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the womb by Almighty God. Psalm 127 declares that children are our heritage, a blessing, a gift and a reward.
God is sovereign. He makes no mistakes. He has a plan. He is the potter, we are the clay. In Isaiah, we read, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
Our feelings are fickle. You can’t trust them. Instead of relying on how we feel about disappointing circumstances we should always go to God’s Word for truth, comfort, and clarity. You can trust God. During my several-week-struggle trying to sort out all of the “whys” that I was bombarded with, a pastor friend offered this wise counsel. He said regarding Bode, “God made him perfect for his purpose here on earth.” Wise words. Good advice.
The “why” question was what I was tripping over. After losing our only son, after praying for healthy babies and having radio listeners across the nation join us in prayer, why is our child born handicapped? Why God? How does this seem equitable?
Regarding the why question, I was visiting with Dr. James C. Dobson in Nashville, Tennessee, as we were taping the extra features for the documentary Flame On. Dr. Dobson tackled the why question and his counsel was so wise I included his comments in the book Losing Cooper: Finding Hope to Grieve Well.
“You should not try to come up with simplistic answers to profound questions that involve the very heart and motivation of God even though the why question has plagued every human being who has ever lived,” Dr. Dobson said.
“We all asked the question,” he said. “We have reason to ask it because we go through difficulties and moments when it’s happening to you. So, we all ask. I draw comfort from the fact that even Jesus asked when He was on the cross, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’
“God rarely answers that why question,” Dr. Dobson insisted. “In the Bible, Job suffered terribly and asked the Lord deep and penetrating questions—brilliant questions. But he got no answers. Why not? Because God will not be accountable to man. Period. No one can answer the why question,” he said, adding, “You can put a thousand theologians in a church and keep them there for six months talking about the why question and they are not going to come up with the answer.” Dr. Dobson continued by saying, “God says He is close to the broken-hearted; He will not leave us; and He sticks closer than a brother.
“Our task in this life, then, is to keep trusting in God and His love for us. You can trust Him even when you can’t track Him or understand His purposes.
“One day our toil and trouble in this life, our sorrow and pain, will be over. The sovereignty of God will bring things right,” Dr. Dobson said. “We know that because Scripture tells us.”
If you’re struggling with a situation that doesn’t seem fair or you feel cheated, please be patient and allow God to finish His work.
It took me several weeks to arrive at this place after much prayer and Bible study. But now as I gaze into the angelic face of my sweet son, Bode, I am one hundred percent convinced that God made him perfect for his purpose here on earth.