Ex. 17:12 - "But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
For months I have struggled to write a new blog post. Most of the time I feel like I'm walking through an emotional and spiritual fog. Those who are familiar with our family can probably understand. On January 29th of this year our second oldest son, Cooper, passed away at home while in hospice care. He is the second of our children to do so. He was preceded his younger brother, Whitaker, back in March of 2013. Both boys had special needs, and we suspect they may have both had some kind of genetic disorder. For nearly 11 years our family has been a special needs family, and now we aren't. I find myself doing things based on a decade of routines that are no longer necessary. I no longer have to set my cup on the highest surface in the kitchen to keep it out of the reach of the curious, searching hands of a boy who liked to hold and spin everything he could get his hands on. I wake up before sunrise, listening for the giggling, chanting voice that has now fallen silent. As I leave the house for worship I keep looking behind me to take hold of a hand waiting to be lead to the car; instead, 3 healthy children run ahead of me to beat each other to their seats.
Several people have graciously thanked Anna and I for our endurance, for our faith and for our strength. The answer I have developed over time is this, "Thank you, but we haven't done it alone." Then I share the ways God helped us through the service and love of family and friends. As I listened to Exodus during our Bible reading in the last week, chapter 17 reminded me of the truth of that answer yet again. Chapter 17 emphasizes several things, but I'll spend most of my time on the last one.
1. Attacks often follow moments of deliverance or great blessing.
Amalek attacked Israel after God had miraculously provided them with water to drink at Meribah.
2. Attacks are often targeted when and where we are weakest.
We know from Deut. 25:17-19 that Amalek attacked those at the rear of the march when they were faint and weary.
3. Strength, endurance and victory only come from God!
The whole chapter drives this point home. Israel questioned and tested God at Meribah in the first half of the chapter. In the second half God demonstrated that the battle would only be won as Moses indicated who their strength came from by raising "the staff of God" heavenward. When the battle was over, an altar was built with the name, "The Lord is my Banner." He was the One Israel looked to and received help from.
4. During attacks, we need assistance keeping our focus on God!
Not many people have the physical ability to hold a staff over their head for a long period of time. Moses literally needed help keeping his, and Israel's, focus on God. Aaron and Hur graciously used their strength to hold his hands upright until the battle was won. Sometimes I think we do a disservice to this passage by not taking the application far enough. It's easy to say, "Moses needed physical assistance, and there were people close to him willing to help hold his hands." I think the context indicates that it's better to say, "Moses needed help keeping his and Israel's focus on God by holding the staff of God toward His throne." The application then goes further, there are times when I will need help maintaining my focus and faith on God, and I will need others to come alongside and hold my hands (similar point to Ps. 121).
If someone had praised Moses that evening as he descended the hill, I am convinced he verbally praised God and those whose gracious help gave him the strength to continue interceding. To drive the point home he had the altar built and dedicated to God!
There is no way to offer thanks to everyone who continues to hold up our hands! However, I want to provide a glimpse into how God has helped us endure in the last few months.
- Within 24 hours of Cooper beginning in-home hospice care, some of the ladies at our church planned an impromptu prayer meeting at one of their homes. I stayed home with the kids while Anna and our family was cried and prayed over for an hour.
- Every day for nearly a month, Anna's phone would alert her to a text message from one of the girls at church with a Bible verse to encourage her.
- For nearly a month, ladies from our church and neighborhood provided meals so Anna and I could focus our attention and energy on Cooper and the kids.
- Every day we received cards and notifications that someone was praying for us! A friend gave us a map of the US to mark the states and cities where we received cards. At last count, 32 states were represented (and that does not include the cards from Africa, or gift from South Korea)! Walking by that map, and running my hands over the pin heads like Cooper would, is one of my favorite things to do each day right now.
- One sweet friend from Indiana texted us every day to check on us and encourage us.
- A friend from the Carolinas created an online fundraiser to help us cover Cooper's final expenses, and the goal was exceeded in less than 48 hours! A local sister from Birmingham with special needs sent us the pennies from her piggy bank. That ziplock bag with pennies will never be spent, because the innocent, sincere and loving heart behind her gift means more to me than whatever monetary value it may contain. I will think of her every time I look at the bag.
- Saints in both Indiana and Alabama hosted, decorated and catered beautiful "Celebration of Life" events in their respective states.
The next time you hear me say, "Thank you, but we haven't done it alone", please know that God used all these people and more for over a decade to strengthen and lift our hands. Sometimes the lifting was physical, but more importantly it was spiritual. They did what they were able in order to fulfill Gal. 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Praise God for those who helped lift our hands as they weakened! And praise God for those who kept us looking to Him by their service! If you are impressed by anything about Cooper and his story, be impressed with his God and the endurance, strength and love that He provides.
If you would like to see the life-celebration videos that my brother produced for each of our sons who have gone on to be with the Lord, follow the YouTube links below:
Whitaker Troy (1/23/2007-3/29/2013) - http://bit.ly/2mJ6QfW
Cooper Daniel (5/4/2005-1/29/2016) - http://bit.ly/2nBa02X
Recently, my wife Anna was asked to write a brief account of our adoption of Grayson in between the loss of Whitaker and Cooper for the group StandforLIFE. You can read her article which was published on their Facebook wall on March 14, 2017 at 10:27 AM: https://www.facebook.com/standforlifemovement