It was providential.  That’s how Kelly Denham views a Beth Moore Bible study she did in the spring of 2013.  The study was called, “Believing God,” and now in hindsight Kelly knows God used it to prepare her.

“I finished the study on a Thursday and the following Tuesday TJ went into surgery. I realize now why I was in that study, because my belief in God’s word and what He tells us was vital to me being able to get through what was ahead.”

Kelly’s 16 year old son T.J. had a newly diagnosed heart murmur. They expected it would turn out to be nothing, but when her husband took T.J. to see a cardiologist, the news was quite different.

“They started running tests and I was getting text messages from my husband. He’s saying there’s something wrong. I was really shocked to hear that his blood pressures were different in all of his limbs.  They discovered he had a coarctation of the aorta, which is a narrowing of his aorta. He was born with it, but it had never been caught.”

Doctors said without surgery, T.J. wouldn’t live to be 30. So surgery was scheduled right away and the procedure seemed to go well.  When T.J. woke up, Kelly felt such relief.

But pretty quickly, T.J. began having problems; he couldn’t move his eyes. He couldn’t swallow. He became very agitated and confused. He began to lose his voice and was having trouble breathing. Then T.J. went into respiratory failure. He was put on a ventilator, developed blood clots in his lungs, and had to have chest tubes. For weeks, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. T.J. was miserable, and he was only getting worse. Kelly felt helpless.

“I was numb. I became a robot. I would just walk the hospital halls. It was so hard to be in the room with him because he was so miserable and suffering. I couldn’t stand to be away from him and I couldn’t stand to be in the room. It was so scary.”

After transferring T.J. to Mayo Clinic, doctors were able to determine that he hadn’t received enough oxygen during surgery, and had suffered a brain injury. The news was devastating. By this time, T.J. could no longer talk. He was still completely aware, but his body wasn’t working.

“Cognitively, he’s just your normal kid. But he was dealing with all this physical stuff. Not being able to communicate was the worst thing. Sometimes he was just going crazy in his mind. It was just torture. God is not cruel, but it sure looked cruel from the outside watching. He was suffering.”

During the darkest times, Kelly and T.J. held onto Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future.”

“I had to decide: am I going to believe what I see, or am I going to believe what He says? Nothing about what we were going through looked like “God loves us.” It looked cruel. But God is not cruel, and I had to believe that, even though it did not look that way.”

Kelly’s steadfast faith sustained her through what turned into a long and painful season. Hear the incredible faith journey of Kelly and T.J. in this week’s episode of Epic.

Kelly Denham – Believing in the face of suffering

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