We all face hardships in life… its part of living in a broken world. But, sometimes those hardships literally bring us to our knees. For some people, that comes in the loss of a loved one, for others it might be the breakdown of their marriage, or it might come in the form of a devastating diagnosis.
For me, that “bring me to my knees” moment came on August 23nd, 2014 at 4am when I received a call from the surgeon who had just finished operating on my husband with the words: “There is a 50% chance he will lose his leg…” At that moment, my world was turned upside down.
Mark had suffered from leg pain and swelling for a couple of years, but despite multiple rounds of imaging, we never found an answer. But, the morning of August 22nd, while at the gym, Mark suffered an extraordinarily painful calf cramp. As his foot started turning blue, we immediately went to the ER where they did some imaging and transferred him to Emmanuel Hospital. At the time the surgeon thought it was a clot and scheduled a 4 hour surgery. That 4 hour surgery turned into 15 hours while they tried to bypass what turned out to be an aneurism and restore blood flow to his leg and foot. Despite the ultimate success of the surgery, the tissue was without blood for too long and it became gangrenous. We found out 5 days later, during a follow-up surgery, that amputation would be necessary as most of the tissue was dead. A week after his original surgery, Mark had what is called a transfemeral amputation – or an amputation in the femur, above the knee, of his left leg.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”
In that moment, while sitting in the waiting room at Emmanuel Hospital while my husband was having his leg removed, I couldn’t see the good that could come from it.
We had prayed for healing, but it hadn’t come. I knew God had a bigger plan, but the future looked pretty bleak at that moment. Work requires him to travel extensively…how would he travel for work? Would he be able to work? How would the kids react? Would he be able to come back to our house since we have steep stairs? Would we need to move? How would we move with him now incapacitated with three small children? The questions swirled in my head and the grief over the life I thought we would have felt insurmountable.
As we settled into our new “Normal” and figured out new logistics for our life, we were forced to really communicate. I mean, REALLY communicate. God used the loss of Mark’s leg to draw us closer as a couple. To help heal wounds in our marriage and reach places of forgiveness and peace. He used the situation to highlight to us how blessed we are by the amazing friends and family we have. Friends who even cancelled their Labor Day plans to clean out his home office and put a bed in it. Friends who spent countless hours sitting by his bedside while he was in CICU, friends who brought us dinner for two months, and friends and family who watched the kids for us and listened to us, cried with us and prayed with us.
God strengthened our individual and collective faith in ways that only happen when you’ve been through extremely difficult times and you have nowhere to turn but to God.
What brought me to my knees countless times in prayer and tears during that August through December has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in our marriage. Would either he or I choose to go through the Refiner’s fire in this way? Absolutely not. Do we both still have hard days? Absolutely.
But, God has taken a pretty devastating situation and turned it around into something that, while inconvenient, trying, and sometimes quite painful for Mark, has shown us so much grace and so much goodness through all of it.
Robin Whittaker-Martin has been married for fifteen years to Mark. Together, they have three spunky kids and have attended Grace Chapel for the past four years.