Ice blanketed the cars on that February dawn in 2000. I sat alone with my thoughts in a hospital just north of Dallas, Texas. The hospital had become a "second home" for our family, especially for our third child, Jonathan, and me.

Jonathan's birth gave us no indication of what was to come. Following a normal pregnancy and quick delivery, I never expected to travel down the painful path of countless hospital stays, tubes and needles, blood draws and breathing treatments. In his first year of life, Jonathan had 15 ear infections, three bouts with a respiratory virus leaving scar tissue on his lungs, viruses that cleaned out his intestinal track, and fevers that soared to 105 degrees without warning.

With our first two children, Ashley and Austin, we struggled with the normal challenges of two young children born 18 months apart. We battled reflux, colic, ear infections, allergies, and infant milk intolerance, but we made it through the sleepless nights and routine doctor appointments without much alarm. I didn't think I would make it through those 11 days in February.

By that icy morning in February, Jonathan was 15 months old, had his fifth bout with RSV (respiratory virus), Roto (intestinal) virus, allergies, severe asthma which required breathing treatments around the clock every three hours, and a systemic infection (blood illness sending disease throughout his entire body). For those 11 days, the doctors drew Jonathan's blood every day at 6 and 7 a.m. His IV sites were so infected we spent 40 minutes trying to find a vein that would administer medication and fluid to attempt to keep his shell of a body alive. In addition, he was on eight separate medications needed to help him survive. I had no idea if Jonathan would make it through that day. The doctors and nurses prayed that things would turn around for our little guy.

Jonathan did make it. I thought we had seen the worst of it. Shortly after that stay, the immunologist said, "Mrs. Dane, your son will require the work of 10 children. Are you ready for this?" How does one answer such a question when there is no option but to press on? I wondered where God was in all this. The best physicians we could contact only shook their heads in bewilderment at Jonathan's continually deteriorating condition. At times I pounded the air with my fists wondering where God was and why my pleas fell short of heaven's help.

Ashley's Question

Three months after that 11-day stay in the hospital, Jonathan fell out of his crib and broke his left arm. As I rushed off to our "second home," Mark took Ashley and Austin to school. Silence spoke of the children's worries. Ashley asked Mark, "Daddy, how come Jesus helps everybody else's family, but He doesn't help our family?" How do you answer such a question from your child? Better yet, how do you answer the question for yourself - "Where are you, God? How come You seem to answer others' cries for help, and my cry goes on and on and on? You promise You will be there in times of need, yet my hope runs thin."

C.S. Lewis wrote shortly after the death of his wife, Joy, in the book A Grief Observed, "When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing him . . . you will be - or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face." Another book that has meant a great deal to me during this struggle has been Making Sense out of Suffering. In it, the author writes these very candid words: The strongest case against God comes from the apparently pointless suffering. It is not just that the suffering is not deserved; it is that it seems so random and pointless, distributed according to no rhyme or reason but mere chance, working no good, no end. For everyone who becomes a hero and a saint through suffering, there are ten who seem to become dehumanized, depressed, or despairing.

A Lifelong Journey