There’s an aphorism that’s been hanging outside our study for more than 20 years: “We don’t believe in miracles. We rely upon them.” This saying had always been nothing but head knowledge to us, but we came to realize its profound meaning through some recent experiences.
Distress from epilepsy
There’s an account in Matthew regarding epilepsy: “Lord, have mercy on my son… He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water” (Matthew 17:15).
We didn’t know much about epilepsy. We certainly didn’t understand how destructive it is, and how much worry and stress it creates for patients and their families. Therefore, the Bible passage never gave us special feelings until we found out our daughter had the disorder.
Our daughter’s diagnosis caused us to experience the same helplessness as the father in the passage. Responding to Jesus’ challenge that “everything is possible for one who believes,” he was stirred up and exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23–24). His response created an immense resonance in our hearts.
About seven years ago, our young daughter started to experience some strange seizures. Each time she had a seizure, her hands would swing backward uncontrollably. We didn’t think much of it at first.
But as our daughter grew, the seizures became more and more vigorous. We asked a neurologist about it. After several examinations, the neurologist told us our daughter had epilepsy and suggested we use medication to control it.
Since our daughter’s epilepsy is of a special type, she needed to test various kinds of drugs. After the first drug proved ineffective, she tried a second and the frequency of the seizures decreased noticeably.
This didn’t last long, however. The seizures began to increase, reaching dozens of times per day at the peak, and became more and more forceful. Our daughter repeatedly bruised her face, lips, forehead, chin, and even eyelids.
Our whole family was thrown into a nervous state, since we weren’t able to predict when the epilepsy would be triggered. At first, only loud sounds would bring on seizures. Later, even doorbells and gentle tapping sounds would trigger them, making them impossible to guard against.
Doctors at their wits’ end
As our daughter’s epilepsy worsened, the neurologist suggested adding a new drug alongside the old. Unfortunately, instead of reducing her seizures, it brought strong side effects. Our daughter often fell into a lethargy after taking it, and couldn’t go to school for a whole week. Even worse, the drug caused her to lose bowel and bladder control.
I couldn’t help but question God: “Where are you? Why don’t you protect our daughter? For how long do you want us to bear with such a life?”
We met with the neurologist again and she suggested a different, more expensive, drug. During the transition to the new drug, our daughter wasn’t allowed to stop using the old one all at once; she needed to do so gradually. Yet not even the expensive drug could completely control her epilepsy. Her epilepsy still raged.
At this stage, the neurologist, who was initially full of confidence about reducing the seizure frequency to zero, could only gravely announce she had no other cures. As long as the seizures didn’t happen too frequently, we should be content.
At the same time, we contacted a neurology expert at the University of British Columbia, hoping to get another opinion. But after learning about our daughter’s medical history, he told us the situation could only get worse, not better. In other words, we could only accept the reality and not grieve too much.
A prescription by the Holy Spirit
When all the doctors threw up their hands, it was time for God to take action.
Years of Christian experience tells us that miracles, while not frequent, are never rare. In fact, we would have lost hope completely if God were not always there with us through his miracles.
During the transition to the new drug, my wife observed that the seizure frequency seemed to be lowest at a certain phase. Her background is in arts – she certainly has no idea how to prescribe medication.
However, the Holy Spirit told us that the medication ratio at that point was very likely to be the most suitable way of controlling epilepsy, so we boldly suggested it to the neurologist, who said, “There’s no harm in trying.”
With the doctor’s consent, we started to use a ratio of the new and old drugs. A miracle happened – the Holy Spirit’s prescription came into effect instantly. The seizure frequency dropped steadily, and even completely disappeared at one point.
The maxim was proven again in our lives: We don’t believe in miracles – we rely upon them.