by Luke Wessler
I never would have made it up the mountain. Lucky for me, God never asked me to be the father of a great nation. Lucky for me, Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac and trust that God knew what He was doing; I was not asked to sacrifice my Michael.
Let me back up a bit.
My wife and I were married for seven years before she got pregnant. We were “actively trying” to have kids for four of those years. Tears were shed as time passed. Angry prayers were made. Hopeful prayers were made. Cries of desperation and lament were lifted and seemed unanswered.
And then one day, after I’d basically thrown in the towel and assumed God wouldn’t bless us with a child, that faintest little line showed up on the cheap pregnancy test from the pharmacy at the end of the dirt road (we lived in Zambia at the time).
I couldn’t believe it, and didn’t actually fully believe it until we returned to the U.S. and had an ultrasound a couple weeks later. But sure enough, there was that tiny little human with a tiny heart beating away. Years of prayers and tears, finally answered.
The pregnancy progressed and we found out we were having a boy. We agreed to name him Michael to honor my cousin who had died three years earlier after being hit by a train. We then found out he had kidney issues, but that these issues wouldn’t be a big deal if properly cared for during the first year of his life. A little dicey, as we had plans to go back to Zambia, but we found ways to make it work.
It feels funny to reflect back on that now. “We had plans.” You’d think at some point we’d realize that God always has His own plans. I mean, we taught others this truth, so we better know it.
Christmas rolls around, and our goal all along had been to survive the holiday and then get ready for the baby (he was due in February). As we were getting ready to go to my parents’ house for Christmas morning festivities, my wife’s water broke. No warning. No issues during the pregnancy (not even morning sickness), and now we are freaking out. Rather than driving to see family, we drove to the hospital and nine hours later are holding our little boy, weighing in at under five pounds. I guess “holding” is inaccurate, as we held him for maybe a minute before he was whisked away into the Level II nursery where he would spend the first 11 days of his life. I spent many hours pleading with God to spare our son, questioning why He might make us wait for years to have a baby only to take him away from us. I trusted that it would work out. But part of me doubted.
God was faithful, Michael made it, and we brought him home. On my birthday, no less.
He still had kidney issues, so we saw a specialist for the three months before we returned to Zambia with a baby who was at that point about the size of a “normal” newborn. The decision to return was not an easy one for me, knowing Michael had some health issues and that we had little access to great healthcare if something were to happen. I’d be lying to say I didn’t have any doubts that we were doing the right thing, that God would protect our son. I wanted to make sure God knew that He had to take care of my son if He wanted me to go back overseas. I was willing to sacrifice a comfortable life in the U.S. to serve Him, but I was not willing to sacrifice my son. That was out of the question.
We returned to Zambia in March and were welcomed with many confused faces in our town at the sight of our baby, as they never saw my wife pregnant. We dove back into life and ministry until ultimately God closed the door and brought us back to the U.S. In the final weeks before making our return, Michael had his first seizure. In the middle of the night. In a small town in Africa without 24-hour medical care.
More wrestling with God. What was going on? Was there a bigger issue? How would we know? We were able to get adequate care early in the morning, and we returned to the U.S. without further incident. But we still had so many questions. Not to mention, we didn’t have jobs or even a home lined up upon our return to the U.S., aside from staying with some friends through the turn of the year.
We say that we trusted God, that we knew He would work out the details. He had already demonstrated His faithfulness time and again.
And eventually He did. It took longer than we had hoped, but we eventually ended up relocating to the Charlotte area so that I could work on the preparing and sending side of our company. Michael is doing great, and he now has a younger sister to boss around.
But what does all this have to do with my greatest fear? That’s just a long story about some stuff that happened several years ago.
Well, as I started to write, I thought my biggest fear was losing my family. The idea of losing even one of them – my wife, my son, or my daughter – can be tough to swallow. The possibility of losing all of them, which is a reality I know many have faced, is crippling. I would rather I die and they live without me than I live without them. This thought terrifies me. How would I ever continue to live if they were to die?
The more I think about this, though, the more I realize that I have a deeper fear. It’s almost too hard to articulate, especially considering I am in full-time ministry. As I consider the possibility of losing my family in service to God, the call to sacrifice everything for Him, the inevitable question is…
Is He worth it?
There are days when it feels easy to answer with, “Absolutely, yes!” Sometimes, the answer is a somewhat less absolute affirmative. Sometimes, there is a hint of doubt.
And this doubt is where my fear is found.
What if we get to the end of all this, and I find out that He’s not worth it? That my faith was unfounded? That all of this serving and teaching and believing is for naught?
Or even worse, what if it’s all true, but I find out I had just been going through the motions and didn’t actually believe? That my faith was just for show? What if I am exposed as a fraud in the face of eternity? What if I come face-to-face with God and He tells me, “I never knew you”?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very familiar with the passages on assurance of salvation, the sufficiency of grace, and all the other applicable doctrines. I cling to them. I find hope in them. I teach them to others. And I believe that asking questions and dealing with doubt can actually build your faith.
But, what if I was wrong all along?
My greatest fear is getting to the end of this journey and finding out, I was. And at that
point, there’s nothing I can do about it.