A few years ago my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This disease affects my Dad’s nerve cells in the brain and reduces the production of dopamine. The loss of dopamine in the brain produces symptoms including muscle rigidity, tremors, changes in his speech and changes in his walk. When my Dad was diagnosed, we were told there are treatments that could help relive symptoms, but that there is currently no cure. While hearing the words “no cure” was very difficult, the doctors told us most people will die with Parkinson’s disease not from it. Hearing that my Dad could still have a long life with the disease, helped me face the lack of a cure with a bit more grace.
Over the years, I have learned that while Parkinson’s Disease may not be a death sentence, it also isn’t a walk in the park. My Dad’s day to day life has been impacted greatly by the disease. I know it’s emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting to deal with the long list of symptoms he endures each day.
This past weekend, Dan and I traveled home to go to my Dad’s bi-annual checkup. Every time we go to this appointment there are a number of thoughts that run through my head, but this time has been different. My current season feels like everything is extra heavy, and going to this appointment weighed on me a bit more than normal. My Dad was my first best friend, and it’s incredibly hard to watch him age. It’s even harder to know he is enduring so much.
When God created the earth, His perfect plan for my Dad didn’t include Parkinson’s Disease. As a matter of fact, God’s perfect design for all of us was to live in harmony in the Garden of Eden with Him forever. However, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge everything changed. Now, because of sin, we live in a broken world. Bad things happen because of sin. Due to the choice made by Adam and Eve, sickness and disease are very prevalent. My Dad doesn’t have Parkinson’s because he sinned, my Dad has Parkinson’s because we live in a fallen world.
The good news is that this isn’t the end of the story. As I have said before, the story never ends with evil winning. Jesus came to earth to change everything. He died on the cross to save us – to give us abundant life (John 10:10). I fully believe that my Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease was healed on the cross 2,000 years ago (Isaiah 53:5). I know the Father has a plan for my Dad, and it’s a plan that for his good (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28), but if I am being honest, as I sat in the doctor’s office listening to the long list of symptoms, medications, tests and next steps I found myself questioning how this can be the “abundant life” Jesus had in mind.
In John 6:1-15, Jesus feeds five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes. After everyone had eaten their fill of food, the small boy that came with the five loaves and two fishes left with twelve baskets full of food. I have always loved this miracle, however recently something has stood out to me that I have never thought of before. In John 6:12-13 the bible says this in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB):
“When they were full, he told his disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” So they collected them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten.”
I really like to entertain, so when I think of Jesus feeding the 5,000, I have always thought of a huge buffet line. I imagine plates first, and then fishes, and then bread (with lots of condiments for people to chose from). Then at the end of the perfectly decorated table (that has all matching serving dishes) there are cute napkins and silverware for everyone to carry back to their seat. I also imagine an adorable set up of cute desserts and drinks to choose from. Okay, I know that part isn’t biblical, there were no brownies that day, but this gives you an idea of the crazy dream world I like to live in. When everyone is done eating, I have always imagined the disciples cleaning up the beautiful banquet tables and packing up the left over food from the tables into cute little baskets for the boy to carry home.
The reality is real life wasn’t Instagram perfect. There weren’t any beautiful serving tables or cute napkins. In fact, the bible says Jesus had the people sit and then he hand delivered them loaves and fishes. In the verses above, Jesus told the disciples to collect the leftovers and then twelve baskets were filled with the pieces that were left over. Friends, Jesus specifically said “so that nothing is wasted”.
These simple five words have recently stopped me in my tracks. The miracle didn’t stop at the 5,000 being fed, the miracle continued from the leftover pieces. The pieces that could have been forgotten or completely thrown away were the pieces that Jesus told the disciples not to waste. A little boy took home twelve baskets of bread and fish because Jesus desired for nothing to be wasted.
This Spring and early Summer it seems like the rain has been nonstop. I can’t seem to remember the last time we have gone more than two days without rain. While it’s been really awful to feel like we’re drowning in rain every other day, I have realized that most beautiful sunsets come after storms. The sunny days are fun, and on those days the sunsets are always beautiful. However, there is something almost magical about the deep colors found in the sky after a storm.
It’s not just in my head, there is actually science behind why storms make prettier sunsets. According to the Storm Predication Center of the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the timing of storm, the cloud patterns and the air quality in the atmosphere actually create some of the best sunsets.
Here’s what’s amazing to me, a beautiful sunset doesn’t create anything. The crops don’t grow bigger after the deep reds and oranges cross the sky, but remember what we learned about Jesus in John 6? He doesn’t waste anything. He takes the leftover clouds from a storm and creates the most beautiful masterpiece.
I don’t understand my Dad’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. I hate watching him hurt. However, I know that my God takes all of our pain and somehow, some way, creates something beautiful from it if we allow Him to. I pray that one day my Dad (or my Mom or Dan or I) will be able to look at my Dad’s journey and say what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20 “What you meant to harm me, the Lord has used to change my lives and the lives of many.” Until then, I can rest in the fact that nothing about this journey – not one detail – will be wasted.
I know that when you are in the middle of a a really painful moment, it can be hard to hear “well just wait until you see the good that comes from this”. I recognize that trusting that good will come out of my Dad’s diagnosis doesn’t take my Dad’s symptoms away. I recognize there will most likely be hard days ahead. I recognize that hard conversations filled with tears may need to happen in the future.
However, I also know know Jesus came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). In the midst of the hard days, we will have a choice to walk in that abundant life. We can choose to think on what is true, noble right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy or we can choose to focus on only the negatives. We can choose to walk in fear and dread of what tomorrow may bring, or we can choose to trust that my Dad will never be forsaken. I love the promise found in 1 Corinthians 15:58 in the New Living Translation (NLT):
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
I don’t know what the tomorrow looks like, but I do know that the sunset that comes after this storm is going to be worth viewing.