Why We Stopped Saying, “As Long As They’re Healthy”
By Shane & Kasi Pruitt
(This Article was picked up by Church Leaders)
On the occasion of learning that someone you know is about to have a baby, there is a default conversation that typically goes something like this: “You’re pregnant, congratulations! So, do you want to have a boy or a girl?” Some people are bold enough to say a preference, but most people feel some guilt if they answer that question. So, we typically revert to the platitude, “It doesn’t matter. . .Just as long as they’re healthy.”
Now, one of the greatest relationships the world can ever hope to behold is the love that a parent has for a child. After all, no mentally or emotionally healthy parent wishes any ill-will for their child, they only want what is in that child’s best interests. Jesus even spoke of the love that imperfect people have for their children in relating to the Father’s love for us when he said, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him (Matthew 7:9-11)!”
Of course, we all desire for our children to be healthy, but what if they’re not? What if it doesn’t turn out like we planned?
The statement, “As long as they’re healthy” is either purposely or inadvertently leading us to believe that as long as our child is perfectly “healthy”, then everything with be “OK.” It’s ultimately what we all want and hope for. It’s normal to desire our babies to have perfect health. In fact, your parental abilities would be in major question if you did not hope for that.
However, and we almost shudder to think it, much less say it, but, what if they’re not healthy? What if they don’t even “make it?” It brings tears to our eyes to even think like that because we can’t help but picture our own children.
Our family currently includes two biological daughters, who are for now, both physically healthy. We also have an adopted son, who most people would not consider healthy because he is confined to a wheelchair and has epilepsy. We love all of children dearly, and only want the best for them. However, what happens when our definition of what’s best, what’s normal, and what’s healthy is different that what we’ve come to experience? What if our picture of the perfect is not what is painted for us?
When our family began the process of adopting, we never envisioned having a son on four wheels, and regularly suffering from seizures. However, the Lord had something different for us. Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely hate seeing our son suffer, and we pray for his healing everyday. But, that’s just it, he is still our son, and he is valuable, he is precious, and obviously the Lord still has something for him because he is still alive! Thank God that “unhealthy” is not a mark of “less than” on our child.
But I would like to suggest something different to you, and its that our babies can’t be defined by “healthy” or “unhealthy.” And we as parents can’t be defined by the health of our children. Our greatest need, our child’s greatest need is not ultimately their health, but the presence of an Almighty God.
In our own personal family experience, and in pastoring people for over a decade, we’ve seen too many instances where “as long as they’re healthy” simply didn’t happen in their story. Sadly, we’ve also experienced too many stories where the child didn’t even “make it.”
That’s why we stopped.
“As long as they’re healthy”, unfortunately, is not everyone’s story. However, the abiding presence of a loving, sustaining, and understanding God can be everyone’s story.
Here are two things to rest on when “as long they’re healthy” is not our story.
A Child that is Born Unhealthy: We must remember that no matter whether the health issues are physical, emotional, or mental, if God has written the story, He will also provide His comfort and peace that surpasses all our understanding. Let’s be honest… it will be difficult, confusing, and disheartening at times, and often all of them at the same time. We won’t understand everything about the situation we’re in. We’ll ask the tough questions like, “Why my child? Couldn’t it be me, instead of my child? And how could a loving God allow this to happen my baby?” But, hopefully there will be a time when the light of truth will shine through the darkness of confusion and depression. We’ll begin to see and know that God will and does sustain us. He will be present. His grace will be sufficient. His peace will be greater than our understanding. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
The Death of a Young Child: As believers in Christ, we have a hope that we will see our children again. In 2 Samuel 12, King David loses his son, but he had the utmost assurance that he would see his young child again in Heaven. “He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” This heartbroken father was comforted by his hope in the graciousness of God. David didn’t have this hope simply because he was a king, a good parent, or even a loving father. It had nothing to do with who he was, he had this hope because of who his heavenly Father is.
So that’s why we’ve stopped saying, “As long as they’re healthy”.
Unfortunately, even in children, health is fleeting but the Lord is sustaining. Healthy is not the identity of a child, but rather, a beautiful image-bearing creation that is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a Holy God is the identity of a child.
They may not have health, but they have love, a purpose, and a God that cares for them more than we ever could. After all, no one can identify more with a hurting child than a suffering Savior, and no one can identify more with a hurting parent than a loving Father who watched His Son suffer in our place.
For a similar Article by the same authors, check out The Death of the Picture Perfect Family