My daughter, Christina, was not quite three. She was waking up from a nap and my wife noticed that she did not seem fully responsive. Christina’s eyes were open and she was breathing, but her face was blank and she did not respond to any touch or sound. This persisted for a few minutes, so we called 911 and an ambulance came. We rushed off to the children’s hospital, uncertain what was happening, but praying for God’s intervention.
I think about that ambulance ride, when I read the story (John 4:46-54) of the royal official whose son was ill. The official traveled more than twenty miles by foot to Jesus and “begged him to come down and heal his son.” The official was someone who normally gave orders and told people what to do. Begging was not part of his daily life—especially with a wandering, controversial preacher. Yet he was desperate to help his son and if begging was necessary, he would do it.
Many parents would do the same. I know my prayers in the ambulance were a form of begging, “God, help my daughter.” It was raw and real and I waited for God to hear me.
Jesus’ response to the official sounds ambivalent, almost callous, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” It sounds like it is meant for the crowd that surrounded Jesus and not for the official.
Yet the father persisted. As I said he was desperate. “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.”
I hear and empathize with this father’s plea. At times God seems distant and silent, yet I persist in my prayer for God’s assistance.
Jesus responded, “Go, your son will live.”
This is not what the father asked. He wanted Jesus to come with him, to be present and touch his son. I would want the same. I want Jesus to be physically present, reassuring me as much as my child.
Yet the official believed the word of Jesus. He started on his way, not knowing what would happen, but simply trusting in the promise of Jesus. I wonder what thoughts and feelings he experienced as he walked towards home. (I let you read the story to discover how it concludes.)
Many parents live right there in the story. We are walking the way, unsure of the future. We have the promise of God’s love and healing, but are uncertain how it will unfold. We walk, trusting in the promise of God for our children and for ourselves. We are on the way, but the way seems dark and cheerless.
Shortly after my daughter arrived at the hospital, we met with doctors and discovered that she had experienced a mild form of epileptic seizure, something that could be treated with a prescription. They assured us that she would grow out of it. And she has.
Still I remember clearly that feeling as we drove to the hospital, the begging quality of my prayer and the simple trust in the promise of God’s love. We all walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We try to remember that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
When have you walked by faith and not by sight?
Lord Jesus, I believe, help me in my unbelief.