Joy in the Trial


One thing I’m noticing about rejoicing: we are told to rejoice in the most unlikely circumstances. The apostle Paul is full of joy while he’s under house arrest, while out on the streets of Rome, mixed in with true evangelists, men with false motives are also preaching the gospel. The book of James launches right in: “Count it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2) As I’m looking at Paul’s example and James’ lesson, I just knew the moment was coming for me to test this out.

Boy, did it ever.

Last Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. I found myself in my son Jon’s room. Two of his friends and I had found him unconscious in a chair. The air was thick with pot. Jon was covered in vomit, ashen, and not breathing. Not breathing.

“Call 911,” I ordered one of his friends while I picked up Jon’s lolling head and supported his neck. I pulled him upright and found it caused him to gasp for air past the vomit in his airway. I kept doing it. “Keep breathing, Jon,” I told him, but he wasn’t breathing except for those gasps I forced his lungs to take. As I looked at my hand behind his neck I had a flashback to supporting his newborn head in the first moments I had ever held him. Nineteen years later, was I doing this for the last time?

Of course, we didn’t arrive at this wretched scene from out of the blue. At the beginning, Jon was a longed for and cherished baby, the first boy in 41 years on my side of the family. We loved and nurtured him intellectually, spiritually and physically. But even as a baby Jon was stubborn. Every limit had to be tested, every barrier needed a battering ram.

Around the seventh grade the first strands began to unravel. There were sliding grades, problems at school, and the beginnings of drug abuse. Yes, there were serious problems in our home, but Jon was going out and heaping problem upon problem. We tried to get him help, but Jon was like a tornado headed out on his own path, churning up more trouble than we could keep up with.

Where did we go wrong? Did we go wrong? We certainly got plenty of advice. Advice, however, is cheap. Solutions were nonexistent.

There had been two other episodes with drugs and two other polices visits to our home. Each time we hoped it would be the clarion call that would wake up Jon. Then, when he was 17, one of his closest friends died in an accident. Jon became fatalistic and started taking unreasonable risks. Worst of all, he refused to believe in God.

Where was the little boy who loved Bibleman and Captain Bible, who sat on my lap for hours while I read Little Pilgrim’s Progress and The Chronicles of Narnia? We were forced to watch Jon’s faith sink into fatalism just as we helplessly saw the drug abuser’s mindset overtake him.

Tonight was by far the worst. As we waited for the police to come, one of his friends, a Christian boy he’d known all his life, prayed over him frantically. Once the policeman was standing by me, I remember saying, “Thank God”. Isn’t that what we always think? That the police and rescue will come, and they will fix it?

The police found the needle, and the tracks on his arm, and another dose of heroin in his room. Later we would find out that on this night, he’d used a concoction of Xanax, pot, vodka, and three shots of heroin. When he got to the ambulance, his respiration rate was 6. People on their deathbeds have rates of 6.

No one was offering any assurances that they caught him in time. They put him in the ambulance; the doors swung shut. The ambulance didn’t leave for a while. Not good. I looked at those closed doors and wondered if I would ever see Jon again. Jon’s 16 year old sister and I stood on the lawn and bawled, not caring who in the neighborhood would hear us in the middle of the night.

Count it all joy. Somehow.

More to follow about Jon later this week.


  1. Sandy says:

    Thank you so very, very much for sharing your pain publicly. So many Christians go through the horror of experiences like this alone, afraid to let others know that yes, those of us who love Jesus passionately also go through horrific experiences like the one you describe. Truth be told, we are not plastic and perfect. I am deeply grateful to you for sharing this, and will be praying for you, Leah, and Jonathan as you walk through this.
    I love you, sister.

  2. Anne Goodreau says:

    Thank you, Sandy. I’m going to be writing more about subsequent events in the next week or so.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv Enabled