Trial ---> triumph
Updated: Sep 14
It was a Wednesday in March of 2016. I was a sophomore at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. I was studying religion, I’d wanted to be a pastor since I was 17. My college education and my life in general was going very smoothly. I was loving both my classes and the people I was surrounded with. Along with this, I had even nailed down an internship at a church in the area. I was content, not just because of the extenuating circumstances mentioned, but mostly because I was convinced that I was in the midst of God’s plan for my life. Here I was: a small town guy just studying and working to make a dent in this world for God’s glory. I was sure I had God’s provision and that nothing could shake me in this time, but I was wrong.
Shaking of Faith
The shaking of my faith began at 7:30 on that fateful Wednesday night in March. I was teaching a bible study to a group of High School guys when I received a series of texts on my phone from a friend of mine from home. Due to the number of texts, I decided to pause and read them. The texts read “Is everything ok?” followed by a picture of an ambulance that appeared to be outside my mom’s apartment. I excused myself from the Bible Study and gave my friend a call to find out what was going on. After some conversation, we concluded that we couldn’t be sure that the ambulance was at my apartment due to apartments being so close together and she wasn’t sure who was in it because by the time I had called, it had driven away. I asked that she let me know if she found out anything and left it at that. I then proceeded to call my mom, no answer.
At this point, I am anxious, but not extremely worried. I mean, what are the chances it was her? So, I went back in, finished the bible study and headed to my dorm room. It was about 9PM now and my anxiety has started to grow into a legitimate concern. I began to get more uneasy as I made repeated calls to my mom and other family members, with still no answer. Shortly after the attempts, I received a call from my Aunt… but it wasn’t my Aunt who was on the phone – It’s was an ICU nurse. The conversation went as follows:
“Hello, is this Nick Henderson?”
“Yes, this is he! Is everything okay?”
“Where are you right now, Nick?” *Expecting me to say somewhere near Florida*
“Um, I’m in college in Lynchburg, VA…”
“What!? You need to leave…. right now.”
“What are you talking about? Why? What happened?”
“Your mother has had a massive heart attack and we are not sure she is going to make it through the night, if you want to see her, you need to leave right now.” *End of Phone Call*
In this moment, I was faced with two dilemmas. One, my mom is in critical care. Two, I sold my car to pay for college… So I don’t have car to “Leave right now” with. With this, I decided the next person I saw was going to Pensacola, FL (12 Hour Drive). That lucky contestant was my good friend, Bryce. Through this night, Bryce provided much more than a vehicle, but a support I have never known before or after that point.
So, after some time in prayer, we were off – southbound towards Pensacola. My anxiety, which had been controlled well so far do to my busyness, had begun to rise as we drove. I thought about how hard losing my mom might be. I mean, she did and was everything to me. My mom was a single mom and I was her only biological child. It was just me and her. She sacrificed so much for my sake and I had just started to appreciate all of it. I didn’t even know how to wash my own clothes, she did it all. She was my main source of support, someone who stuck with me when nobody else would. But, it was not a time to think sad thoughts, it was a time to drive… so that’s what I did.
The “Reality – Check” Phone Call
As we drove along, I did not receive many updates. All I knew was my mom had supposedly had a heart attack and was not doing well. This information was unsettling, but not enough to overrun my usual positive, and sometimes unrealistic spirit. But, as we neared Atlanta, GA, I took a large sip from the cup of reality. I received a call from a Dr. at the hospital. Conversation went as follows:
“This is he.”
“Nicolas, I have a very important question to ask you. Is this a good time?”
“ I suppose so, yes.”
“Your mother has gone into cardiac arrests 5 times since she has been here…”
“Yes, I’m so sorry… but, I have to ask you. If she goes into cardiac arrest again, would you like us to revive her?”
“um, yes? Am I missing something? Why wouldn’t I?”
*Sighs* “I don’t think you understand… the more we resuscitate your mom the more oxygen we cut off from her brain. The more this happens, the more of a vegetative state she slips into. To put it blunt, your mom will not be the person you’ve known her to be. She has already lost most of her motor skills, her thinking abilities and her quality of life has diminished greatly and will continue to do so if we continue to revive her.”
“I… don’t know what to do. You have to help me here, I can’t make that decision. Just tell me what to do please.”
“Nicolas, in all honesty, chances are your mom won’t make it. So, I will work to keep her alive until you arrive. How far are you?”
“About 5 hours.”
Okay, no promises, but I will do my best.” *End of Phone Call*
Reality has struck, and I wanted no part of it. I knew things were bad, but not 5 cardiac arrests in 5 hours bad. Bryce and I turned the I-85 into Talladega Superspeedway trying to make it to my mom in time. We were going strong – until Montgomery, AL.
I made a call to my former youth pastor who was at the hospital to get an update… he answered the call with hesitation in his voice. I knew something was wrong. He handed the phone to my uncle who said the hardest three words I’ve ever heard “Nicolas, she’s gone." That was it - she was gone. The only person who had supported and loved me no matter the circumstance my entire life, gone. I went back and forth from punching things to crying uncontrollably. My soul was being tortured by this loss and I couldn’t stop the pain. I loved my mom more than anyone, I couldn’t imagine doing life without her. Yet, here I was – without her. I just wanted to call her… but she was gone. The words rang in my mind "Nicolas, she's gone."
The Sun Still Comes Up
Realizing just how exhausted we were, Bryce and I decided to stay the night at a hotel (Motel). I didn’t sleep. In between my sobs and crippling anxiety, I laid there in despair over what had just happen to me. But, as I sat in my $26.77/night hotel room, I noticed the sun began to come up. And though to most this is just a product of the world’s continual spinning on its axis, it meant something more to me this morning. As it rose, I thought to myself “The Sun still comes up.” This thought began to provide a peace for me. Though the darkness seemed long and never ending, the sun still comes up.
In relation to my faith, though these times may be bad, my God is still good. Though this situation seems very much out of control, my God is still in control. I knew in that moment I was going to be alright, not because of my strength, but His. God was and still is working out all these things for my Ultimate good.
For instance, through the sharing of this story, God has used it to bring dozens of teens to Christ and encourage many more to take the next steps in their faith. From a sermon to a crowd, to a one on one conversation at a coffee shop, God is using this painful circumstance mightily for the healing of o
thers. He was and continues to leverage this difficult time for His glory and wants to do the same thing with your circumstances.
For those who have gone through or are going through the unthinkable, remember this truth: We serve a God who is in the business of using bad circumstances for great purposes. Lean into that truth and let it encourage you today to keep moving forward, knowing God has a plan and a purpose for your life.