When your child is born with weighty health or developmental issues, or after a diagnosis is announced, the road of your life immediately heads an entirely different direction than you expected. My own daughter Carly’s diagnosis with Angelman Syndrome finally came when she was two and a half years old. There were early signs of developmental delays and health issues. But we thought the “detour” would eventually bring as back in line with the roadmap we initially had in mind for our young family of five.

Today’s navigational apps and Google maps give us a heads-up when detours are coming up. Jesus gave warnings too. One example: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33).

It is helpful to pay attention to warnings and get prepared.

Carly’s situation impacted many many things. Among those, it immediately shifted our career trajectories which involved owning a small consulting business at the time. Larry and I both soon found our previous work was not sustainable, logistically or financially.

Our lifestyles, decisions, mindsets, faith, and relationships paused or changed dramatically. There were no U-turns to take, just “under construction” signs facing us every day. And there were lots of turns. It took a number of years to reorient ourselves and our family around this road we are on. And still, the twists and turns of life impacted by disability keep coming.

I suspect if you are reading this, you understand what I’m talking about. Most people experience a “detour” or two in life, no matter what the specific circumstances are. Again, remember that Jesus warned us.

Many of our models in the biblical accounts were no strangers to twists and turns either. We can look to Peter, Paul, Mary, and Jesus himself for encouragement and insights. (I know, some readers are still stuck back at “Peter, Paul, and Mary” with a grin. You’ve just revealed your age!)

But seriously, just take a quick look at the unlikely journeys these folks were on.

Peter was thrown into utter confusion and fear when Jesus was about to be arrested in the garden of Gethsemene. Jesus told his friends to stay awake while he prayed. But Peter got caught napping. He missed the warning (and opportunity). The next thing Peter knew, he was fighting against an imminent threat to his own life while also fighting for Jesus’ honor and protection with a sword. He went so far as cutting off a servant’s ear. But Jesus called Peter to a different way. (Read Matthew 26:36-56 and John 18 for the full story.)

The Apostle Paul’s life was interrupted countless times, first on the Damascus Road and then by repeated imprisonments. Paul’s life must have felt like one giant detour — a whole different way than he ever expected would get him into the “good graces” of God and ultimately heaven. The disruptions and suspended plans in Paul’s life served to heighten his passion to speak constantly of the Good News and strengthen other believers in their faith. His detour is still bearing those results today.

Mary was a very young girl preparing to marry when an angel told her she was already pregnant and would raise the Messiah. Only extreme trust in God carried her though such a shocking turn of events and, later,  heartbreaking loss. We know now what Mary could never have foreseen.

Jesus’ ministry was interrupted by arrest and murder just as it was growing such promising momentum and birthing beautiful friendships. Envisioning Him on the cross should always strike profound hope in us. What appeared to be the most tragic life interruption ever to occur, turned out to be the very best thing that ever happened in the history of the universe.

Jesus’ words in John 16 (verses 31 to 33) should carry a great weight of reassurance for us in our own hardship. He asked the same question then that He is asking us today. And followed it with a most awesome detour warning!

“Do you finally believe? 
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

What Jesus did and didn’t do when facing a life-altering pivot point gives caregiving parents some tremendous help and inspiration to keep trusting and following Him in the face of troubles and change:

  1. Jesus never ran away from trouble.
  2. He didn’t resist the fight.
  3. He fiercely protected His personal intimacy with his Father.
  4. He asked His friends to stay awake, pay attention, and keep praying with Him.

Friends, we are not passed over in our suffering. Jesus understands it (often more than we credit Him for doing so).

I’m so glad we are in this together! I would not even know any of you if Carly had been born differently. I do not want her to suffer and I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want you to suffer either. And yet.

I am not the woman I would have been without my children. I am still very rough around the edges but I am being refined for the better because of the uninvited valleys in my path.

We are learning some things together we would not know without these detours. None of these things will be wasted. The fact is, there is new, welcome richness and adventure to life (and death) and in our relationships because of the detours. And along the way, we have a safe place to hold — Jesus.

I had a favorite song last year for my private worship times. I wept as I prayerfully sang (or just listened) and Jesus poured comfort and promise over me. I want to invite you to take 5 minutes and listen to The Detour.

None of us knows what detours we will face. And I don’t know how healing and miracles are part of the story God is writing for any of us. But these are definitely miracle stories playing out, friends — detours and all.

The song carries the truth of a deeply comforting promise.

Link to the song here.

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver advocate and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Along with her husband Larry, Lisa co-founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit interdenominational organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa serves caregiving families as an ordained pastoral counselor and certified Christian temperament therapist with memberships in the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling and International Ministerial Fellowship. Lisa and Larry have three grown daughters. Their youngest, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome, lives at home with them in Minnesota.