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I Can't Do This!

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2016 20 Dec

a man sits by a stream with his face in his hands

Author and pastor John Van Sloten remembers his response to the news that his infant son Edward had Down syndrome. Driving home from the hospital after visiting his wife, he could no longer keep it together.

“I couldn’t stop crying. . . . When I got home I ran down the hallway, fell face-first onto my bed, and screamed out to God, ‘I can’t do this . . . there is no way in the world I can handle this. . . . I cannot do it!’

‘You’re right. You can’t, John,’ was the response. ‘But I can.’”1

It wasn’t until three months later, during a weeklong trip to Rochester, New York, that Van Sloten began listening to what God was trying to tell him. During that trip he had three surprise encounters with young men diagnosed with Down syndrome, each of whom seemed to be a living contradiction of the fears he had for his young son.

“The night after arriving home, I sat down to journal about my amazing Rochester adventure. Then it hit me. That night, three months ago, while I was lying in bed running all those awful scenarios of how terrible being Edward’s dad was going to be, God already had the events I’d just experienced in mind. God knew. Right down to the last detail, each of my anxious imaginary scenes was recast, retold, and redeemed.”2

Not long afterward Van Sloten felt the call of God on his life and began the transition from land developer to church pastor. Years later he reflected on how God had transformed his worst day into his best.

“Many times over the course of my life,” he says, “I’ve experienced this retrospective recalibration of painful events. Time would bring a perspective that sometimes brought about a dramatic redemption of the situation. I wonder if, in the end, we will all experience one big retrospective moment before the very face of God.”

What is it you are having a hard time accepting right now? Ask God to help you listen to what he is saying. Trust him to “recalibrate” even your worst day—to recast, retell, and redeem it in a way that brings him glory.

  1. John Van Sloten, The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything (Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive, 2010), 40.
  2. Ibid., 45, 47–48