My Sweet Monty
The greatest test of my faith came on Valentine’s Day
The first Bible story I heard as a little girl was the story of Abraham. I was 5 years old; yet when I heard the word bless, I knew it was something good. I learned the Israelites were God’s Chosen People, and my heart rose in response. I wanted to be an Israelite so I would be blessed and belong to God too.
Three years later I discovered the amazing truth: I could belong to God by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as my Savior. Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and the blessing God had promised to provide to bless all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). Throughout my life I usually walked in the awareness of God’s amazing blessings—until Monty.
The Devastating News
The greatest test of my faith came on Valentine’s Day 2014. My husband and I were in a restaurant, anticipating the thrilling news from our son and daughter-in-law about the gender of their first child. The call came, but Kevin’s voice was toneless and blunt. “The good news is that the baby is a boy, and the bad news is that he has spina bifida.” Spina bifida is a birth defect that prevents a baby’s spine from developing properly, causing the child to be born with paralysis and neurological difficulties.
How could this happen? I asked myself. God surely would not permit this. With a heavy heart, Kevin told us they hadn’t planned to reveal the baby’s name until birth; but now they wanted us to know it so we could pray for him specifically as Montgomery. His name was beautiful, and I wept. All the way home from the restaurant I knew God had made a mistake.
Kevin and Marjorie love the Lord. All four of this child’s grandparents love the Lord. I saw men walking down the street and wondered why they should get to walk when our sweet Monty would not. I felt an ugly bitterness arise within me and shamelessly wished the spina bifida on them. Often, our first reactions when we go through troubles are sinful. It isn’t easy to “count it all joy” (Jas. 1:2). Our lives rise and fall by how we think.
I was the classic example of “hurt people hurting people.” I felt God was not holding up His end of the blessing. I lived by the Deuteronomy 4:40 command to keep His commandments “that it may go well with you and with your children after you.” “Well, Lord,” I said, “it’s not going well.”
So I began my campaign of prayer for Monty’s healing. Surely, spina bifida would pose no problem for the Lord, I thought. I knew all the beautiful accounts of Jesus’ healings. Yet, the disability remained.
I immersed myself in Scripture. Instead of finding a comforting promise, Deuteronomy 1:26–27 convicted me:
Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; and you complained in your tents, and said, “Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”
The Israelites rebelled and complained and accused God of hating them. Yet, He had delivered them from slavery, led them through the wilderness with cloud and fire, and provided manna and water. Suddenly, I saw myself in that tent with them. God was teaching them, leading them, humbling them, and proving them. He was seeing what was in their hearts, while blessing them with clothes that didn’t wear out and feet that did not swell.
Then I knew He was testing me. He was examining my heart. And I wasn’t proud of what He saw.
It was like God turned on the light of His Word and held a mirror up to my bitterness. If this was a test, I was certainly flunking. I seriously repented for my entitled, self-righteous attitude against a good God who daily loaded me with benefits.
Through the Eyes of Faith
James 1:17 says God gives us every good and perfect gift, so I needed to view Monty through the eyes of faith. Would I believe Psalm 139, that my grandson was fearfully and wonderfully made? He was made and planned by God and showered with precious thoughts before he was even conceived. He is a little boy made in God’s image—and that is what defines him, not spina bifida.
I had to start believing verses I knew all my life. Hebrews 6:18–19 says Jesus is the anchor of my soul and to whom I flee to receive His consolation and sure and steadfast hope. Hope. What a glorious word! Hope was what I desperately needed. Romans 5:3–5 told me hope was what tribulation was supposed to be producing in me:
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
I had the Holy Spirit. Now I needed to allow Him to lovingly work in me. He was using suffering for my benefit, not for pain.
Three years later, when I was diagnosed with cancer, lessons I learned from Monty’s situation gave me hope. Instead of complaining and wishing cancer on strangers, I wrote Scripture songs of hope and trust that carried me through chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. I sang them in the night when hopelessness stalked me, and I experienced the peace that really does defy understanding. If I lived or died, either way I would be victorious with the Lord.
These lessons live with me still. I certainly don’t want pain or suffering; but I pray that if the Lord sends it my way, I’ll be better armed with God’s promises so I can run to Him before bitterness sets in.
Suffering has lessons to teach us. The truth of God’s Word and the love of Christ rescued me from the miry pit, and they can do the same for everyone.
God has a plan for Monty’s life that involves a wheelchair. But that’s okay because Christ is the hope of Monty’s story.
God will use Monty and his parents in ways He cannot use the rest of us. He takes our suffering and uses it to draw us close to Himself. He understands because He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). He uses suffering to make us stronger than we ever could make ourselves because “[His] strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The apostle Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).
Disquieted hearts can trust in God and have their minds renewed day by day. He gives us His presence and tells us to be of good cheer. He gives us grace and promises it is sufficient. He gives us strength that is perfected in weakness.
Monty has had multiple surgeries and probably will need more, but today he is the happy and thriving big brother of two little sisters. Yes, there will be continued frustrations and even suffering, but we are filled with hope as we find our refuge in God.
What I learned as a child is true. God promised all families of the earth would be blessed by the Jewish Messiah of Israel. My family is one of those families. I thank God for giving me songs to replace pain and despair. My heart can sing songs for Monty, for my family, and for those needing encouragement.