In that moment, it seemed crystal-clear that God was answering my prayers in just the right way. An American friend emailed me in China, where our family of five had resided for twelve years, “Isn’t God’s timing perfect that He healed you of your migraines right before you adopt the two children He has for you?”
Hope gripped my heart as I imagined this fulfillment:
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
After experiencing three migraine-free weeks, I felt miraculously free from the imprisonment that had lasted most of my adult life. I couldn’t wait to include this significant chapter in the story of our growing family, giving glory to the God of miracles, a chapter I would name “Healed from Headaches and Adoption Completed in 2008.” But it was never written. God instead allowed my struggle with migraines to continue—like that awful “thorn in the flesh” that Paul described. God’s weighty words to comfort me resulted in profound disappointment in Him: “I have more to teach you about weakness.”
Not only did my migraine battle continue, but God also chose for our family to wait five more long years before our adoption was completed. His plan was not to grant my requests when I was sure that the timing was perfect, but to teach me to trust Him through waiting in the dark. Now I can see that His lifelong desire for me has been to learn how to praise Him without qualifications.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3: 17-18
During a season of dark discouragement in 2011, I asked God what He wanted to teach me through my many “wasted” days of migraine pain.
But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
I had never noticed the word rest in that verse before. While confined to rest in bed, as my three teenagers managed both the household chores and their homeschool assignments, I humbly acknowledged that when I had absolutely nothing to offer, I was completely dependent on the Giver. But through His power resting on me, I realized that I could be renewed.
And His power could only rest on me when I was unable to rely on my own strength.
I came to believe that pain does not have to be wasted. It can be transformed. In 2013, when our oldest was about to start college and our adoption paperwork was about to expire, we found out that two boys, aged seven and eight, were available for adoption at the orphanage in our city. There were major hurdles involved in adopting them together, but God made a way where there seemed to be no way.
Then, just two days after the celebratory news of our match, we were blindsided with devastating news that the younger had just awoken from a six-day coma with a severe case of viral encephalitis. In those first two months after David and Daniel joined our family, God brought healing and enabled Daniel to regain much of what he had lost in his physical areas of deficit, but irreversible brain damage has remained to this day.
I used to think it was up to me to provide Daniel with all the resources he needed to reach his full potential, but I’ve realized that I’m actually the one who needs to learn from him. His life of dependence and unwavering faith in God has strengthened and inspired me in countless ways. Today, as I continue to battle migraines and walk alongside Daniel as he battles not only his physical and intellectual disabilities, but brain cancer last year as well, God has remained our anchor. He always accomplishes His purposes, especially when they include pain and brokenness.
If God had allowed it, I would happily have written about the amazing ways that He answered prayers according to my plan. But God never handed me the pen to choose the unfolding of my story. Instead, He has taken me down paths of weakness and waiting, and instructed me to write about the better story He has been weaving through disappointments and unexpected turns. Stripped of self-reliance, I’ve discovered in my motherhood that His power resting on me is all that I need.
Since her family returned to the US six years ago, after 20 years of ministry in China, Jodie Pine has transitioned to a role of shepherding global women as they re-enter their passport countries. She has also pursued writing, speaking, soul care, and social justice. Her youngest son’s cancer journey last year created unexpected ways of connecting with Jesus’ suffering, marveling at the hope of His resurrection, and growing deeper in gratitude for the love and support of His Body here on earth.