Most people have a tendency to read things quickly. This is especially true with the Bible; we read the Bible quickly. I have a mantra at Grace Life Fellowship, it’s “Never read the Bible casually.” When we read the Bible casually, we can miss the intensity of what God wants to teach us and place in our hearts so we can know Him better and trust Him more fully.
Today, I want to focus on a verse from the book of James. Many of you know this verse, but I don't know if we take the time to ponder it. It says, “We all stumble in many ways.” James 3:2a (NIV)
None of us walk through this life perfectly. We all stumble. We do things we don't want to do; we get seduced by the enemy, we make a choice of the will, we take our eyes off God, we put our eyes on the world, and we act out of character. And when we do these things, we can be prone to walk in guilt and shame and feel very, very lonely, as if we're the only ones who have ever failed.
Today, I want to share with you one of my worst failures.
My daughter, Morgan, developed late onset epilepsy. It was progressive and got very, very serious. We eventually had to pull her out of college because she could no longer do the work. She was heavily medicated and still having seizures. She didn’t want to sit and watch life from the sidelines. She decided to attend a Bible school out of the state so that she could continue to try and help her mind while learning more about God as the medicine hopefully balanced out in her body.
Around late September we received a phone call from the school. They told me that my daughter was having a seizure. I asked them how long it had been going and they replied, “9 minutes.” If you are not familiar with epilepsy and seizures, you need to understand that a seizure longer than 5 minutes can be very serious. It can mean brain damage or even death.
She has medicine that we can inject to help stop her seizures, so I hurriedly told them, “Give her a shot,” to which they responded, “We've already given her one.”
I cried out, “Oh no! Give her another shot and call 911.”
While I stayed on my phone, I grabbed someone else's so I could call one of her neurologists - she has three of them. In my fear and anxiety I cried out to the woman who answered, “Quick! Get the doctor out of his room. Morgan is having a seizure and we can't get it to stop! I've given her two shots already and I need to know if I can give her a third shot!” The lady on the other end said, “Well, I'm going to follow protocol. I need the date of birth.” I said, “Ma'am, I don't have time to give you her date of birth! Please get the doctor, I've got to see if I can give her a third shot!”
All this time, I can hear the people with Morgan saying, “12 minutes, Pastor Frank, 12 minutes!” They were desperate, and I grew desperate too. I said, “Ma'am, I don't have time for this! Please get the doctor out of his office!” She forcefully replied, “I am going to follow protocol! He's going to want to see the chart.”
I gave in. I gave her the date of birth, and as the receptionist typed it in she stated, “Oh, my, my... My computer is so slow today.” While she slowly waited on her computer, all I could hear from my other phone was people screaming at me saying, “14 minutes, Pastor Frank, 14 minutes! … 15 minutes!”
I began to believe this little girl was going to die and there was nothing I could do.
After about 7 minutes, the lady came back on the phone and said, “Oh, I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking! He's not here today.” I hung up the phone which was a good idea, before I said something! I immediately called her second neurologist. I got the nurse who told me that the doctor wasn’t in the office. I hung up again thinking, do these people work? And all the while I can hear voices shouting, “Pastor Frank, it's 20 minutes!... 21 minutes! What are we going to do?”
Shaking, I called her third neurologist and I quickly told the nurse what had happened. I said, “I've given her two shots. She's at 21 minutes now, what do I do? What do I do?” The nurse responded, “Well, give her a shot and call 911.” I said, “Ma'am, are you listening to me? I've already given her two shots! We've already called 911! I need to find out if I can give her a third shot or if that third shot will kill her!!!” To these words she replied, “Well, I don't know. The doctor's not here today.”
I hung up the phone and cried out to God, “What do I do? What do I do?” The thought came to my brain to call the pharmacy. So I called the pharmacist and said, “I've given Morgan two shots, she's now been seizing for 24 minutes. Can I give her a third shot or am I going to kill her?” He said, “I don't know. Let me call the factory and I'll call you right back.” I hung up the phone.
Here's where I failed.
I cried out to God, “God, if You take her, You and I are done! I will never preach another sermon for You.”
I listened to the people who were with Morgan continued to call out to me: 28 minutes, 29 minutes, 30 minutes. I felt so helpless and I so alone. At minute 31 the pharmacist called back, “Frank, I talked to the factory. It's one shot every four hours.” I said, “I've already given her two and I can't stop the seizure. What am I going to do?” And he said, “You're going to have to make a decision.”
I hung up the phone. I cried out as a father, “What do I do? What do I do? If I give her a third shot, I could kill her; if I don't give her a third shot, she could die!” Through the phone I can hear them screaming, “33 minutes, Pastor Frank! ... 34 minutes, Pastor Frank!” I was indecisive, I didn’t know what to do and then suddenly they called out, “EMS is here!” EMS came in and made the decision to give her a third shot which stopped the seizure.
She had eight more seizures that night, seven the next morning.
I booked an immediate flight and was in Colorado in six hours. I had appointments with Mayo Clinic lined up within days. After many, many tests, we were able to finally bring her seizures under control.
Up until about a year ago, I hadn’t told this story publicly. I did share it privately with a few people but had never spoken about it outside of that. A little over a year ago, I shared it with one person because they were so upset over how they had failed God. As I said earlier, when we fail God we can feel very guilty, very ashamed and very alone; like we're the only ones who have ever failed God in such a way. And so I decided to share my story with her. The story of how I failed God in my faith, of how I didn't trust Him. My friend, I didn’t trust God to get my daughter through that situation, and on that day, I chose that I wasn't going to trust Him if He decided it was time for her to go home to Heaven.
I shared my story with this lady, and I told her, “You're not the only one who fails; I failed in my faith, I failed to trust God in a crisis.” The moment those words left my lips, deep in my spirit I heard these words, “Yes, son, you failed in faith, but you did not fail as a dad. You fought for your daughter the same way I fight for you, My son.” I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, those were not my thoughts.
The Holy Spirit of God spoke words of comfort and encouragement to my mind and my heart.
My friends, what I want you to understand is that our God loves us and He fights for us even when we are faithless, even when we fail to believe that He is good, even when we fail to believe that He will fight for us. He IS good, and He IS fighting for us, even if we aren't aware of it.
I pray the story of my failure encourages you, because the reality is,
My failure was not the end of my story and neither is your failure the end of your story.
Our God’s New Covenant tells us that He is bringing us to an appointed end, and beloved, it is a good end. I love you. Even more importantly, He loves you. And I pray that in His richest favor, He will open your eyes and give you revelation to see how good He is, and how much He fights for you.
God bless you in Jesus' name.