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Time has a way of fogging memories, but I still remember the room.

It was a little prayer room just off of a waiting room at Creighton Hospital in Omaha.

Shana Mackey was there. Shana was the woman who would let families know the status of their loved ones when they were in surgery.

My husband Chuck had been in surgery after an accident in February 2013.

His SUV had left the roadway and the T-12 vertebrae in his back shattered. He was recovering in the intensive care unit a few days later when he coded and his heart stopped for 11 minutes.

Days passed and a doctor told me the longer Chuck went without any improvement, the more likely it was that he wouldn’t recover.

In that prayer room, I prayed for a miracle with Shana holding onto me.

“My faith is so weak,” I told the Lord. “This shield of faith is so heavy.”

“God knows your heart,” Shana said.

I continued in prayer: “Please help my unbelief … where my faith, hope and trust are weak, please fill in the gaps.”

Shana would prove to be an incredible comfort during those terribly painful days and I’m forever grateful to her.

Chuck died Feb. 28 — six years ago this month.

Since then, I have learned so much as I’ve tried to navigate the waters of widowhood.

I’ve seen God’s incredible faithfulness. He’s lifted pain and given me hope in even the darkest of times.

So what was I talking about when I mentioned the shield of faith?

I was referring to a verse in the New Testament book of Ephesians where the Apostle Paul is talking about the Armor of God — the spiritual gear we wear as we go through the battles of life.

Paul compares faith to a heavy duty shield like one the Romans had during Bible times.

I always thought those shields were metal, because of what I’d seen in movies.

But Bible scholars say these shields were wood, covered in leather and soaked in water to extinguish flame-tipped arrows.

That’s why Paul wrote: “In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (the devil).”

Like that big Roman shield, bold faith can help fend off the enemy’s attacks. The fiery arrows intended to wound us can be deflected — instead of lodging into our souls — when we remember that God loves and will take care of us.

That said, the shield can seem pretty heavy, sometimes.

We want to have faith, but just don’t seem to have the strength.

So I’ve prayed for strength and for God to “just help me get through this time in my life.”

I try to remind myself of how God has helped me in the past.

And with the Lord’s help, I’ve tried not to look back and wonder if I should have handled things differently.

That can be tough sometimes. Years ago, I wondered if things would have been different if I’d prayed harder or fasted longer or had one of Chuck’s college friends come to the hospital and pray for him.

I wondered if things would have gone differently if I’d been 100 percent doubt free.

But I also remember a pastor telling me — back when my Dad died — not to second guess myself.

“You did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time,” my pastor said.

Along with those comforting words, I’ve always remembered a Bible story that I’ve loved for years. It’s found in the New Testament book of Mark, chapter 9.

At this point, Jesus and three of his disciples come on a scene where they see a multitude of people.

A man in the crowd comes up to Jesus.

The man says he brought his demon-possessed son to some of Christ’s disciples, but they weren’t able to cast out that spirit.

“Bring the boy to me,” Jesus says.

When that happens, the spirit convulses the boy who falls to the ground.

“How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asks.

And the man replies: “From childhood. Often it has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.

“But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If you can ….?” Jesus says, echoing the man.

Stop a minute.

Can you imagine Jesus being amazed by this man’s statement?

After all, Jesus is God’s son.

He can do anything.

Jesus was with God when the world was formed and through him everything was made. (John 1:1-3)

I picture stars being hung in the skies and waves meeting the shores on the earth for the first time.

And Jesus being there through it all.

Now — all these untold numbers of years later — a man asks Jesus if he can do something.

You’d think Jesus might have some choice words for this man, but instead we hear strength mixed with patience and encouragement when he says, “All things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately, the father of the child cries out and says with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus casts out the demon, saying, “You deaf and mute spirit. I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieks, convulses the boy violently and then comes out. The boy looks so much like a corpse that some people say, “He’s dead.”

But Jesus takes the boy by his hand, lifts him to his feet, and he stands up.

So many times in my life, I’ve been able to relate to that poor father who wants so badly to believe.

I wonder how many times he’d thought someone could help his son — only to be disappointed.

It can be hard not to have doubts sometimes — especially when we’ve wanted something for a long time and not seen it come to fruition.

At the same time, I think that desperate father gives us a picture of hope and provides us with a good example.

When we’re having a hard time believing, we need to cry out to the only one who really can shore up our faith.

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows how badly we want to believe and how the enemy of our souls and our own fears can come against that.

That’s when he says to come to him. He can ease our fears, heal our hurts and give us peace as we trust — even so weakly — in him.

And like he did with that boy, Jesus can take our hand and lift us to our feet, spiritually speaking.

After not getting the opportunity to visit with her for years, I talked to Shana the other day. She sounds like she’s doing fine, just as compassionate and uplifting as I remember.

She and her husband, Eris, have a busy life with six children and a grandchild, but I hope to see her again sometime.

It will be nice to see such a great prayer warrior, who really knows how to hold up a shield of faith.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.


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