She was going to die, the only question in my mind was when. I had prayed for a miracle, brought the whole missionary team to the hospital multiple times to interceded for her, but no transformation was happening. Each day I would start my rounds with her, holding onto hope that overnight our great savior had touched her and restored her health, but as days stacked on days and our treatments seemed to make no difference, I couldn’t keep the growing sense of discouragement out of my heart as I walked home each night. I am a doctor and sick people are my specialty. In Egbe, I rarely have “routine” sick people to care for, most are brought in so decompensated and with advanced illness our treatments are often too little, too late. Honestly, I don’t usually struggle with this, I pray along with the team for God’s will to be done in each life, and then I do all that I can, leaving the results up to him. I rejoice with those who are healed and mourn with those who are not. Her case was different…I don’t know why. Right from the beginning her illness had been bad and her prognosis poor, but I had been drawn to her. My spirit had been stirred to pray for her healing, I had felt compelled to step out in faith and claim victory over her little body. But the days were passing and nothing was changing. The family was ready to take her home, out of money and out of faith that we could help. I understood those feelings and my guilt over not being able to make her better made it difficult for me to insist on what I knew was best — that she remain in the hospital even though her outcome looked grim. I knew that the little we could do was better than the nothing done at home. They allowed her to stay for another few days and then they took her home. I still remember the sight of her large mother carrying that small body, limp and semi-conscious out to the waiting motorcycle that would drive them away. As she passed by, her mother spoke kind words to me with tears filling her eyes, and I felt like I had failed. I was deeply discouraged that God had not healed this little one the way I had asked. Where had his goodness gone?
During the days that followed I asked God a lot of questions. Many of them revolved around “why”? I was desperately seeking understanding, hoping that it would lessen the pain from a suffering that I perceived was meaningless. Lord if you could just tell me why, maybe I wouldn’t feel this bad. Where has your goodness gone, Father? Is it “good” to call me into deep intercession for this child, believing it was your will, only to watch her carried out just as sick as when she came in? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my disappointment was born from the place of dashed hopes, hopes of seeing an incredible display of supernatural power. Like a magician who can amaze a crowd with one grand sweep of his arm, I had wanted the right to shout out loud, “How GREAT is his [God’s] goodness, how GREAT is his beauty!” Zechariah 9:17. I had wanted to put him on display and say, ‘See! He still does great and marvelous things!’ But at that time, it seemed to me that such goodness was gone. And ironic as it was, that little girls name was Goodness and she was gone too.
Last week, one of the residents told me that he had admitted a young girl with malaria, sick enough to be in the hospital, but not so sick that he felt the need to wake me in the night to come and see her. He told me her temperature was back to normal this morning and she was even eating without being sick. I followed him into the ward, chatting about the nights events, when we stopped by her bed to examine her. Sitting in the middle of the sagging mattress, staring at me with cautious eyes and a serious face was Goodness. She was a year older and quite a bit taller — but I would know that face anywhere! Her mother was next to her in a chair beaming at me. Goodness was back! The story was simple, Mother had taken her home and followed our instructions about feeding and giving the medicine as prescribed, and slowly day by day Goodness had improved. She hadn’t brought her back to see us— because she was better. How do I explain the joy of seeing that little girl sitting on that bed?
A year ago, I had wanted to pull a rabbit out of a hat and say, “Ta da!” But our good Father had other plans. Plans that required belief without seeing, waiting without knowing. Plans that insisted on faith in a deeper work happening in their lives and in mine. Plans that in my human understanding seemed wrong and painful then, but today in the light of his goodness are revealed to be perfect and holy. That is the goodness of God. Goodness that redeems the darkest situations. Goodness that finds beauty in the midst of ashes. Goodness that pours the oil of joy over the mourning of loss. Goodness that did not answer when his only son cried, “Won't you take this cup from me?” Goodness that knew there was a better way, though it lead through the valley of the shadow of death. Goodness that said, “Do not be afraid, I am here.” How sweet it is when Goodness returns!