Six years ago, my youngest sister asked me to take care of her two girls, ages four and six, while she delivered her third baby. Due to some pregnancy complications, she was scheduled for a c-section and would also need me to help her when she got home.
“Sure, I’ll come for a week,” I told her. “The girls and I will have a great time.”
I drove from Michigan to Pittsburgh and arrived on a Saturday afternoon. For the rest of the day, I scurried after my nesting, turbo-powered sister as we went over schedules, bedtime routines, emergency numbers, and homework instructions. After a crash course on how to use her new oven, washer, and dryer, she declared me ready to take over.
Early Sunday morning, I kissed my sister and husband good-bye. “Don’t worry about a thing,” I told her. “Everything here will be fine.”
Later that afternoon, my brother-in-law called with news that I was now the aunt of a baby girl. Both mother and daughter were doing well, which was more than I could say for myself. I was dragging, and my stomach felt funny. I kept telling myself that I just wasn’t used to running after two energetic girls. I couldn’t possibly be getting sick; I never got sick. But by the time I tucked my nieces into bed and crawled into mine, I had to face the daunting truth.
I, who never got sick, was indeed sick.
Chills. Fever. Upset stomach. Bone-deep exhaustion. And my throat was starting to hurt.
“Please, Lord,” I prayed. “I absolutely, positively, cannot come down with something now.”
As I thought about my germs spread all over the house, the dog, the girls, I felt even worse. My nieces would get sick, and then my sister’s husband, who planned to stop back home for showers and naps, would get sick.
Then my sister would come home from the hospital, sore and turbo-hormonal, and get sick too. Or worse, she would get sick in the hospital.
And if my brand new baby niece sick…
I lay in bed shivering, thinking about all the terrible things that could happen.
And I was afraid.
I have never prayed all night before, but that night, I did. I prayed that God would take my illness away, so I could take care of my family. I cried out to him, without ceasing or sleeping, asking him to shelter and protect my family, especially the baby.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16(NLT)
In the morning, I hauled myself out of bed to get the six year old get ready for school. After I put her on the bus and walked back to the house with my other niece, I noticed I was feeling better. And as the day progressed, my energy increased. The chills and funny stomach went away, the sore throat cleared up, and by dinnertime, I was eating at McDonalds and laughing as my nieces chased each other and giggled in the PlayPlace.
I sent up prayers over the next few day when everyone remained healthy, thanking my good Father for protecting my family and making me well so that I could care for them.
But later that week, I learned even more about what God had done for me.
On Wednesday morning, the day my sister and baby were coming home, I called my husband. “Are you okay?” I asked him after he answered. “You sound terrible.”
“I’m sick. I knew you’d worry, so I didn’t want to say anything before. I feel so awful I didn’t even make it to work today .”
“How long have you been sick?”
“It started on Sunday evening,” he said in a shaky voice.
The same time I had started feeling sick.
“I got horrible chills, sore throat, upset stomach, and just felt wiped out.
The same symptoms I had.
“I feel even worse today,” he said. “And my throat is killing me.”
I finally talked him into going to his doctor. The next day, he called with the diagnosis.
He had a severe case of strep throat.
We got sick on the same evening, with the same symptoms. And yet, while my husband had felt sicker and sicker, I was well in less than twenty-four hours.
Some people believe that God no longer heals. But I know better. In that little house in Pittsburgh, my big God heard my earnest prayers and took away my sickness, so no one else would get sick. And so I could take care of my nieces and then my sister when she came home.
So I would learn more about his boundless grace, unfathomable love, and unfailing compassion.
From his throne in heaven, he listened to my midnight prayers. And he answered me.
With morning grace.