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Erik Reed: Learning to Trust God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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April 24, 2022 10:02 pm

Erik Reed: Learning to Trust God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 24, 2022 10:02 pm

What's it look like to trust God when bad things happen to good people? Author Erik Reed describes his search for God's goodness amidst tragedy.

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Encouraging Word
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My whole understanding to that point was that, you know, if you just love Jesus and have enough faith, everything's supposed to just fall in place, you know?

It's like cupcakes, rainbows, pixie dust, you know, everything's supposed to just be perfect. So, you know, here we are, you know, young, married, young in our faith, we're serving in our church, eager and zealous for the Lord, and we have a son, born early, with big-time medical issues, who has challenges. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. OK, I've got an Ann Wilson exclusive question.

I hate these. I want to hear your answer to actually, I'm going to throw you on the spot. It's a pretty heavy topic. OK. All right.

Top one reason you think people walk away from their faith, if they have faith, and then they just like, I don't think I can keep believing anymore. How could a good God allow this pain or tragedy in my life and in the world? How'd you know? You knew I was going to ask. I think that's what everybody... That was too quick of an answer.

She knew. I think everybody wonders that. And the people on the street that I'll talk to that they have no belief or maybe they've turned away, it's tragedy, and they're like, I just don't know how God could allow that.

How could a good God allow bad things to happen to good people? Yeah. I mean, that is one of the biggest, if not the biggest hurdle for not just other people, us as well.

I mean, that's a real and there aren't any easy answers. So we've asked a pastor to come in. Eric Reed is with us today on Family Life Today, and you've never been here, so welcome to Family Life Today. Yeah. Thank you guys for having me.

This is exciting. And obviously, as a pastor, you've dealt with that issue, but we're going to find out today as a husband and a dad as well. You pastor a church in Lebanon, Tennessee. That's right. Which I don't know exactly where it is, but it's east of Nashville.

East of Nashville. Yeah. Home of Cracker Barrel.

It's where Cracker Barrel was started. What? That's right.

So you're welcome. You're playing the thing right there. Do you go there a lot? Yeah.

Pretty regularly. Yeah. I mean, it's like a hometown thing. We love Cracker Barrel. I love Cracker Barrel. Yeah.

We love Cracker Barrel. So we turned 16 in the third week of January. So you're driving? Yeah. We're driving.

We got the license, and people probably need to watch out on the streets. And married with two kids. Married with two kids. My wife, Katrina, and I celebrate our 20th anniversary on June the 17th. Wow. Good.

Well, take us back to December 1st, 2019. I don't know if you want to go there, but it was a pivotal moment in your life. Sort of tell us that story. It was Sunday morning, and my wife and I had been in the hospital with my son, Caleb, who was 15, going on a couple of weeks. Throughout his life, we had been in hospital weeks at a time, multiple times a year. And so it wasn't a new thing for us. We were very comfortable with being in the hospital.

More comfortable than most families probably would ever be. We were at home. We packed our bags. We had routines. My wife would tend to the girls.

I would stay at the hospital with him. I had my stack of books with me, my computer. We just had routines.

We knew what to do because we'd done it so many times. And it was on this day that we would realize that it wouldn't be like any of the other times. A few days prior to December 1st, doctors had come up to us and said, we need to start talking about possibilities of what happens if Caleb doesn't get better. Caleb had been dealing with respiratory issues that were a result of a lot of other things going on in his life.

And we can talk about that and how he got to this place. But his respiratory condition wasn't improving. And that was the first time that we had to kind of stop and go, oh, my mercy, we may not go home like we have every other time. I think we had just grown so accustomed to we go in, we get a tune up, we get some antibiotics, we get better, we go home.

We had done that so many times that it never crossed my mind that we may not get better and go home. And when the doctors told us that, we had to have some hard conversations with each other, with his primary care doctors and talk about, do we think that everything has been done that could be done? We also were looking at a son who had been struggling and suffering for really his whole life, but the last couple of years in particular in a big way. And so early that morning, after discussions with the doctors and just a lot of tears, we knew that we were at the end of the road. We went and talked to Caleb and asked him if he was ready to see Jesus. And with his inability to talk at that point because of the stroke, and plus he had a BiPAP machine mask on his face, we just asked him to blink twice if he was ready to see Jesus.

And he gave the biggest two blinks you could ever imagine. And at that point, our daughters were at church and we had family let them know that they needed to bring them up there to the hospital. And of course, we started calling our family and letting people know what was happening. And our daughters showed up to the hospital. I went out to meet them. And boy, walking them hand in hand down the long hallway to their brother's room, knowing I was about that to tell them that he was going to go be with Jesus soon, was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. And they just cried and I just hugged them and tried to console them as much as you can.

And we went into the room together and Katrina, my wife, was in there with Caleb and we all, the five of us, got to spend some time together before the rest of the family came in. And he passed away. We prayed and read scripture over him. We sang Ten Thousand Reasons, his favorite song, and that last line, on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near, my time has come, steal my soul, we'll sing your praise, unending ten thousand years and forevermore. And we just filled the ICU with praises to God and he passed and went into eternity and face to face with Christ. And I prayed and gave thanks to God for a son that I got to have for 15 plus years and just asked him to help us.

And he has answered that prayer over and over again. Oh, Eric, I mean, I'm sitting here crying because you've lived through the fear of every single parent and you've walked that. And I think what we're talking about today is how do we find God in the middle of our pain? Because so many people are living that, experiencing that.

And your book is called Uncommon Trust, which is a perfect title. Yeah, because, you know, you can walk us through because you had to do it. Give us a little back story of the, you know, 15 years of Caleb's life.

It started out in the hospital when he was born. You knew you had complications. And you were just starting to plan a church at that time?

That's right. I was just brand new in ministry. We would start a church the next year, but I was brand new in ministry. I didn't have much theology under my belt, you know, I had a lot of love for Jesus and of zeal, you know. And you didn't grow up in the church.

I didn't. I would go to church with my grandmother when I spent the night with her on Saturdays as a kid. And that was it for church. That was sort of a, you have to go to church with me deal?

Yeah, but I loved like not being at my own house and spending the night with her. So it was like, okay, I get to go to church with Gan, you know, and so it wasn't that I minded church, but it was just something that I did with Grandma. Parents didn't go to church. So it was one of those things where not a lot of grounding, not a lot of depth or understanding. Certainly perfect candidate to start a church, right?

Just the perfect pastor you would want. Yeah, so honestly, if December 1, 2019 would have happened 15 years prior, I had no grounding at all. And honestly, even if you do have grounding, you still get rocked and your legs get wobbly. So I had to jump into the deep end with no floaties on as a young man, married, you know, just over a year now with my first child, and we learned that he had some medical issues. He was born premature at 30 weeks. He had a bad kidney that had cysts all over it, and he had a good kidney. And so, you know, we were told, hey, listen, all we got to do is get this bad kidney out. And once the bad kidney is out, you know, he can live a normal life with one kidney. You know, doctors were telling us people live with one kidney all the time don't even know they only have one kidney. Really? You know? Yeah. Oh, I learned I've become an expert at kidney. I just don't know.

I don't have a degree for it, but I can tell you a lot about your kidneys. So you're 24? Yeah, at that time when he was born, I'm 23, about to be 24, and thrown into the deep end with a son, born early with big time medical issues. And I don't have any theological grounding at all on, okay, you know, what do we do? My whole understanding to get to that point was that, you know, if you just love Jesus and have enough faith, everything's supposed to just fall in place. You know, it's like cupcakes, rainbows, pixie dust, you know, everything's supposed to just be perfect. And every story you hear, that's always supposed to be like somebody else's story.

It's like, it's those people, it's never you. So, you know, here we are, you know, young, married, you know, young in our faith, we're serving in our church, eager and zealous for the Lord. And we have a son who has challenges. And so we wanted to, you know, wait for him to get bigger before they took the kidney out. So when he was born, what they did is they put a drainage tube in that would help keep the cyst from filling up.

It kept draining the cyst, which was good. But the tube in his side started creating infections, he started causing problems. And so he battled for those first two months off and on with getting infections.

And it became one of those things where doctors are saying, okay, there's a risk reward here. The longer we wait and the bigger he gets, the better it will be for his surgery. The longer we wait, the more opportunity there is for serious infection. And he may not survive these infections.

These are, you know, he's getting really sick when this happens, which then sets him back from getting bigger too. So finally, they came to us two months after he was born and said, it's best to get this kidney out. Had he been hospitalized that whole time? The whole time. So we were in the NICU at that point.

He was born at 30 weeks in the hospital. And we stayed there the entire time, anticipating the surgery to come. So they have surgery comes and you know, it's kind of anticipation, you know, because the idea is like, hey, we're gonna have surgery.

And this is done. This nightmare is over. So you aren't worried, you are anticipating? We were excited. You know, obviously, there's a little nerves because it's a surgery, it's your child. But you know, the whole thing was like, we're gonna get this kidney out.

Right? And when the kidney urinates, and we see that the good kidney is good, we're going home. And so they did the surgery, you know, he goes to recovery and, you know, he's in recovery and then get him put him back into a regular room. And we're told, hey, the next morning, you know, everything checks out and everything looks good.

You guys will go home. So the next morning, I get up early, anticipating the doctors won't come till lunchtime or so. Actually when I had a side job, just because I was doing an internship at the church, and they were paying me gobs and gobs of, you know, tins. I had to go do something. I was like, I'm about to bring a kid home. You know, I got to go make some money.

So I was actually installing satellite dishes, like side jobs. And so I told her, I was like, Katrina, I said, I think I can go get a satellite put up this morning, come back to the hospital, load up, we'll go home with Caleb. And so I took off to go do a job, you know, and she called me a couple hours later. She said, you've got to get up here. And I said, Oh, what's going on? She's like, I don't know, the doctors are running around, his blood pressure is really high, his heart rate is really high.

They're doing ultrasounds, but they're not telling me anything. Just get back up here. Something's not right.

And of course, I immediately go back and it's like a 35 minute drive and it's the longest drive of my life. I'm just like, I'm praying like, God, I don't know what this means. I don't know what's going on. Please be with my son, be with my wife, you know, and I'm just, I felt so helpless. I was like, I can't get in here any quicker, you know, I'm just sitting here. I'm crying and I'm praying. I don't even know what I'm praying for, because I don't know anything, I don't know what's wrong.

And so I just felt so helpless. I'm crying out and I get to the hospital and that's where we eventually learn the surgeon comes in and he says, I don't know any other way to say this, but there's been a mistake on the surgery. And instead of taking just his bad kidney out, we have accidentally removed his good kidney as well. So they took out both kidneys. Both kidneys were taken out in the surgery. And so the way that they, the way that that happened was his kidneys, he had what was called horseshoe kidneys.

They didn't know it at the time. He had what's called horseshoe kidneys, which if you're, you know, for listeners to imagine, think about if I held my fist together and then I linked them together with my pinky fingers, right? That idea that those two kidneys represented by my fist are connected.

And now instead of fist, think about little bitty thumbnails, because this is a little bitty baby who's preemie. So they were connected together and then folded on top of each other. So when they go in to take the kidney out of his body, when they, when they go in for the surgery, they look in, they see the bad kidney facing them and they see the cyst and they go, okay, there it is. And they go to remove it, not realizing that with that bad one is the good one connected to it. Could they have separated them? No, once it's out of the body, it's done. No, I mean, if they had have known.

If they would have known, they could have, they could have, but nothing that had been done up to that point in terms of testing and, you know, all those things picked up. In fact, that that was the case. Oh, so you're sitting in this hospital. Sitting here in the room with him, sitting beside us, blood pressure levels, 200 over 100 blood pressures, 240 over 130 kind of, I mean, stroke level blood pressure.

They say this to you and your wife. Yes. What do you feel in the moment? Numb. And the surgeon was so heartless, even when he said, he said, it's unfortunate. He literally used those words. Those were his exact words.

And you know, looking back and there's a story even about, I mean, you talk about a journey of having to learn to forgive him. His bedside manners were non-existent and I'm sure he was stunned. I'm sure he too was in a place of unbelief of what had happened. But his deadpan delivery and his it's unfortunate, you know, felt so indifferent.

It felt so calloused that when he left the room, we just looked at each other. And I was so naive at that point in my life, I was just like, but what does that mean? Like, can they put it back in? I'm so naive at that point. I don't have any reason to know about kidneys. Right. You know, it's like, I got them, I think, you know, so I don't need to know anything in particular, right? And so I knew nothing. And my wife looked at me, she understand the full implications, she says, you can't live without kidneys, Eric.

And that's when it hit me. And then the next question is, what can we do? You know, your mind immediately goes to solution. What can we do? What's happening? What's the next step? And so we end up having a meeting later with a team of doctors and hospital administrators.

And I mean, it was me and my wife and at a conference table full of very important people. And they're asking us and discussing with us what we want to do. These 24-year-old kids.

Never had a child, don't know anything about life. And they look at us and they say, we've got two approaches. They said, we can do something we've never done with a child this size.

And this is at one of the top hospitals in the country. Or we can do nothing. Wow. And I asked, I said, what does that mean? And they said, your son will pass. And I said, well, if there is something that can be done, we would like to try to do that.

If you think that it could be effective, we would like to try to do that. And so they said, okay. And that meant the next thing that needed to happen was a surgery to place Dallas' catheters. And what we would have to do is get him big enough to get a kidney transplant. And you had to have an adult kidney even in a child because all the blood vessels, it would be so small if they were from a child that they would just clot off and it would be ineffective. And so they have to get you big enough as a baby has to be big enough to get an adult kidney. So we knew it was going to be a process and the only way to get to that process was dialysis. And to start dialysis on a little bitty baby, they had never done that.

So they end up having surgery. We end up getting a catheter in. They end up, you know, we were there, I think another month or two, just getting his body back regulated, blood pressure down, getting all the fluid off of him. And then we got to go home and with a kid that needed to do dialysis, you know, every night at home. And after a year, the dialysis quit working and, you know, because he started getting infections and had to put new catheters in, the catheters wouldn't work.

So we had to shift over to a different kind of dialysis, which they do where they run your blood through a machine. And so that required us going to the hospital three days a week, three to four hours at a time. And so for the first two years, that was our lives with him.

I want to sit on the floor and just cry, imagining the two of you enduring this, walking through this, holding on to each other, praying for, hoping your son would make it and thinking about all the dreams that you had for this little boy. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Eric Reid on Family Life Today. We're going to hear Eric's response in just a minute, but first we'd love to send you a copy of Eric's book, Uncommon Trust, Learning to Trust God When Life Doesn't Make Sense.

And I think we've all been there. It's our gift to you when you make a donation of any amount this week to support the work of Family Life Today and become a partner. We are, as you may know, listener supported. So if you've been blessed by Family Life Today, consider paying it forward and becoming a partner with us. You can give at or you can call with your donation at 1-800-358-6329. Again, the number is 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today.

All right, now back to Dave and Ann's conversation with Eric Reid. I grew up imagining having a son. In fact, that's all I ever imagined was having a son. I was an athlete.

I love playing sports. And I always thought about, I can't wait to have a boy to play ball in the yard with and do all these things. And now all of a sudden, here we are with our world turned upside down. After it happened, my wife couldn't even go into the room and see him for days. She was so devastated.

She couldn't even look at him. And so a life changing moment for me was the day after it happened, I went into his room, there's a rocking chair in there. He's in there hooked up to all kinds of things and machines are beeping. And I had my Bible. I had a notebook. Of course, you know, I haven't preached any sermons at this point in my life. I'm going in there for survival.

I'm not looking for content, you know. And I just had my Bible. I said, God, I just need to know what to do, what to think, how to survive, how to help my wife. And I didn't even know where to turn. I'm just, I'm flipping around. You know, I'm just I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know I'm looking. So I'm flipping.

I'm flipping. I'd read a few things. And, you know, nothing was resonating where it was like, oh, OK, God, you got my attention here. And I got to the book of Daniel. And again, you know, not growing up in church. And, you know, at that point in my life, I hadn't like I had voraciously just tore through the Bible and had it all implanted. So, you know, I get to Daniel, the only thing I know about Daniel is like, oh, yeah, the lines did.

Yeah. You know, I remember the Sunday School of Flannelgrafts and all those things, but I got to Daniel one for whatever reason, I started reading right there in chapter one. And the very first thing that happens in Daniel one is God allows for Nebuchadnezzar to go in and take Jerusalem, to take Israel, and turns them upside down. And these young men and all the best and brightest of the land get ripped, kicking and screaming out of their homes, away from their families, dreams gone. Everything changed in a moment, sent away. New identities, new names, new language, new everything. And I remember reading that and I just stopped and I was like, I felt like that's how I felt. Like our world's turned upside down.

Everything has changed now. And I felt I could identify with these people. This is a true story. I had no idea where the story was even going. Like at this point in my life, I'm like, you're just chapter one.

What's going to happen to them? But I was drawn in, especially by the idea that it says, and God gave over Jehoakim to Nebuchadnezzar in Judah. And I just sat there and was like, OK, well, now what? And I kept reading and you eventually get introduced to Meshach, Shadrach, Abednego, and you see the command to bow down and they won't do it and all of a sudden they get summoned to Nebuchadnezzar. And Nebuchadnezzar says, this is it, this is your chance. Here's the fiery furnace.

You can feel the heat on your face. Bow down and worship me and live what God will save you from my hands. And their response to him, it was like the page, it exploded into life when they said, the God whom we serve is able to save us. I wrote down in my little notebook, God can save us. And I turned over and I looked at my son and I thought, OK, God, I know you can save him. I know this isn't the end of the story.

I know you have his life. And I just sat there kind of hopeful for a second, like, yeah, that's right. You are the God who can save. You know, I think throughout scriptures, like you're the God who rescues your people out of Egypt. You're the one that parts the Red Sea. You're the one that can send manna.

You can do all things. And I was charged with hope in that moment. And then I read the rest of the verse, I was going to say, but if he does it.

And I was wrecked by that when I read, but even if he doesn't, but if not, we will still not bow down and serve you. And guys, at this point, you know, I just, I just sat there, really probably with just a blank stare. I probably had a thousand-yard stare on my face if you'd have walked into that room. And I was grappling with this idea that they were committed to following him, even if he didn't rescue them. And I was wrestling with it. I loved, I loved the idea that our God can save us. I was like, why didn't you just put the period there? Why not stop?

You're cheering, like, yes. Just to stop that right there is good enough for me, you know, and I just started to really work through. There's something in the theology of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that understood God could absolutely save them, but that God was under no obligation to do it. And here's the thing, and that did not anger them.

They were resolved and surrendered to say whatever he wills. And guys, I'll just be honest, I just, I wasn't there in my life. I could grasp with my mind exactly what they were saying. My heart could not comprehend.

Why wouldn't God rescue my son? But I knew what I was listening to, what I was reading, what I was looking at, what I was thinking about. I knew it was right.

I knew. I don't know how to get there, but I know there is where we have to be. Yeah, we don't have time to tell the rest of the story now, so you're going to have to stay tuned for day two, because we got to go to How Did You Get to Uncommon Trust? You've been listening to Family Life Today. Now what would you do if you randomly bumped into the surgeon who critically messed up your son's kidney surgery?

That seems like an impossible situation, but that is exactly what happened to Eric Reed. He's going to be talking about what he did, how he felt, and how he reacted in our time tomorrow. Hope you can join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-14 01:42:16 / 2023-01-14 01:54:15 / 12

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