The Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances”, but I’ve always wondered if that included the bad things in life.

I used to think it was unrealistic and unfair . . . until a near tragedy changed everything.

It started out like most nights at our place: my husband and I frantically getting dinner ready while our boys played noisily around my feet. Phil had just stepped outside to light the barbeque when we heard an almighty “thud!”

I absently thought to myself, What on earth was that?. I turned to look at Phil and the horror in his eyes made my heart sink with realisation. Jack, just two days shy of his first birthday, had found a small gap in the staircase handrail and plunged, head first, 2.5 metres onto the wooden floor below.

I froze. “There’s no way he survived that,” I whispered, picturing his limp, lifeless body on the floor. A myriad of unspeakable thoughts went through my mind. Then, miraculously, out of the darkness . . . a cry. “He’s alive!”

Phil defied gravity as he flew down the stairs and picked up our baby boy. I was already on the phone, calling an ambulance. Jack’s forehead had doubled in size and was distinctly purple. The operator finally made sense of my hysteria and an ambulance was on its way.

Running out the door, Jack screaming in my arms, our neighbours casually leaned over the fence for a chat and realised all was not well. Phil, holding Jack’s poor, confused, older brother, Tyson, explained the situation.

Our neighbour Jenni ran inside, shouting over her shoulder, “I’m coming in the ambulance with you!”

How grateful I was to have someone with me who could talk sensibly to the medics while Phil and Tyson followed behind in our car. At the hospital, a good half a dozen emergency medical staff were waiting for us to arrive and they pounced on Jack.

X-rays, MRIs, a cannula, poking and prodding followed. I sang to him in a desperate, broken voice, trying to keep him calm while I fell apart. The nurses were so gentle and kind with me. Meanwhile, Phil texted everyone we knew, asking them to pray for our little Jack.

By midnight, Jack was fast asleep. I was set up on a trundle bed beside him and I sat there, at 2 am, staring out at the beautiful city lights as texts and emails poured in from friends and family who were praying for Jack.

I looked at her in surprise and declared, “No, my God has been good to me.”

Phil’s sister was already on her way to help him with Tyson. My mother arrived and stayed with me in the neurology ward for the next two days. Jack was still in hospital on the day of his first birthday (two days later). Needless to say, his party was cancelled but he was smiling and nothing else mattered in the whole wide world. Finally, at about 3 pm that day, a neurologist gave him the all-clear.

“Just a large fracture from the top of his head to his eye socket.” Ouch!

The sense of relief was incredible. Mum drove us home and as I took my first step inside, I burst into tears. I didn’t know anything about post-traumatic stress disorder but that’s what I was experiencing. For weeks, whenever I heard an ambulance siren or a loud thud, I would jump. Tyson became super protective of his little brother, running from the other side of the house to make sure Jack was OK whenever he cried.

My social media post, written the day we arrived home from the hospital, says it all: “When something terrible happens, that’s when you realise love is tangible. It has a face and hands, it’s a kind voice, it’s prayers, it’s words, it’s presence, it’s help, it’s heart. Thank you for all of the above, beautiful people in our lives. We have felt your love in our darkest moment and we feel truly blessed. Jack is doing better than we could ever have hoped and anyone who has seen how far he fell knows it’s a miracle he is here with us today.”

The Bible says, “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” It doesn’t say all things are good, just that they work for the good. It’s important to acknowledge that hard times will come our way and we aren’t expected to thank God for them, especially while in the midst of it all. But to be thankful in them is something else altogether.

When a friend came to visit a few weeks later and saw where Jack had fallen, she told me, “Your God has been tough on you.”

I looked at her in surprise and declared, “No, my God has been good to me.”

There is a story in the Bible when King David tells a group of men to give thanks to God “for his love endures forever” and I believe it. God’s love never quits, even in the tough times. God would never ask me to thank Him for what happened to Jack, but I found ways to be thankful in it.

That first night in hospital, as I stared out at the city lights from my trundle bed, I thought about all the things I had to be thankful for in our darkest moment.

I was thankful for my neighbour who was there for me, no questions asked; for the ambulance officers who treated Jack on the way to hospital; for the team of doctors and nurses who gave him the highest level of care; for my mum who sat beside me for two days, so I could shower and eat and just walk outside for a moment; for my sister-in-law who travelled two hours to help look after Tyson; and of course, I was so incredibly thankful that my Jack was alive—bruised and sore—but alive nonetheless.

As the author Frederick Langbridge once said, “Two men look out the same prison bars. One sees mud, the other sees stars.”

Finding true freedom from the confines of sorrow and suffering that life puts around us can be as simple as looking up at God, rather than down at our circumstances. It’s the ability to focus on the eternal blessings of God that will give us the strength to cope with whatever life throws at us.

The question is, are you focusing on the mud or the stars?      


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