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God Doesn't Make Mistakes

God Doesn't Make Mistakes

by Jennifer Ann Burnett , MD

April 2004

 

A Lesson in Real Life

            I am in the OR (operating room), sterilely gloved and gowned, standing with a scalpel blade in hand. Before me is the prepped abdomen ("swollen with child", as the Bible might put it) of a young woman at term. I have followed her since the beginning of her pregnancy, so I know she is healthy and has taken good care of herself. The baby is fine, so the operation is not an emergency. But because she had to deliver her prior child by C/Section, and our hospital is not equipped to handle emergency surgery if we let her labor and have a serious complication, we have scheduled her Repeat C/Section for today. The surgery initially goes well, and as I enter into the uterus, I see clear amniotic fluid- a good sign. The baby's head is low in the pelvis, so I scoop my hand over the top of its scalp and gently bring it up, delivering the head. I am ready to suction the baby's mouth and nose, but I stop short- for there is something very wrong here. The whole middle portion of the upper lip is missing, as is the bottom part of all the nasal structures. This is accompanied by the absence of most of the palate (roof of the mouth).

            As I carefully suction the nose and mouth, a dozen questions are going through my mind. Will this baby be able to breath on its own? Are there other associated problems with the esophagus and trachea? With the baby's first gasps of air, she begins to turn pink, and my heart starts beating again. It is a girl, and a quick assessment reveals that there are no serious heart problems or other visible congenital anomalies. Later in the nursery, I will prove that the esophagus and trachea are normal, so feeding the child, at least by tube, will be possible. But there in the OR, I have another question looming before me, "What should I say to the mother?", for the she is awake, having had only spinal anesthesia. How can I tell her that this long-awaited child she expected to be a perfect little baby girl, has a severe congenital abnormality which may even cause people who see her turn their heads away in revulsion.

            I address the mother and offer her the "technical" name of the problem, describing the physical defects, reverting to my "detached clinician persona" that all of us doctors have cultivated to get us through emotionally charged situations such as this. To try to put a little positive spin on this sad situation, I end my discourse with: "Medical science has advanced so far these days that surgical correction can, over years, offer cosmetic results that border on the miraculous". After assuring that the baby is stable, has been dried off and covered properly to keep warm, I ask that the child be brought to her mother. I cannot see what her initial reactions are, because the surgical drapes separate her face from my view. I welcome the fact that I must now concentrate on the repair of the incision that I made, assuring that at least her recovery from the operation will be uneventful. Afterwards, as I complete my examination of the child in the nursery, I'm at least confident that the heart and lungs are fine and the child can be fed- but breast feeding is out of the question due to the nasal-oral defect. I call in a pediatrician for consultation and transfer care of the child to her, my job essentially done for this baby.

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            It is a day later now, and I have come in to see my patient and check on her recovery. With joy I have received word that by using a bottle with a specialized nipple, the baby can actually be fed without having to resort to a tube inserted down into her stomach. This is very good news. As I arrive in the room, the mother is in a rocker by the bedside, feeding her newborn daughter, smiling and cooing to her, as all mothers do. I see the loving care she directs to the child, knowing that she has already gotten past the shock of seeing such a terrible facial deformity. She only sees her beloved child, and to her she is more lovely and precious than any baby in the nursery. As I view this scene from across the room, I have to turn my head and leave for a while, for tears are forming in my eyes now, and it does not look professional for a patient to see her doctor crying there in the room.            

            As I go down the corridor to give myself some time to get my composure back, I realize that I just have witnessed the hand of God in that room. All day yesterday I had been asking Him, "Why?" With such a good mother, getting good prenatal care and having no known risk factors, why should her child be born with such a devastating birth defect? In actuality, I have been extremely blessed in my 24 years of doing obstetrics, rarely ever having any problems with the babies of the mothers I have cared for. I have felt almost like Jacob, whose own flock prospered, despite all the "contract changes" Laban made regarding Jacob's payment for his shepherding services (Genesis 30:25 - 31:16). And now, I encounter such a serious birth defect after decades of normal babies! Even when prenatal testing indicated a strong possibility of Down's Syndrome or some other testable congenital defect in the pregnancies of other women whom I have delivered in the past, the babies always came out OK. So, "Why now, Lord?"

            God's answer came over the next few days, partly because I had been mulling over this very topic in writing for this book. For one of the most common retorts from mainstream evangelical Christians as to why there is no such thing a woman's mind trapped inside a male body (or visa versa), is "Because God doesn't make mistakes!"           

 

What Does the Bible Say?

             As I contemplated the extremely complex and miraculous process of producing a new life from conception to delivery, and then considered what can go wrong to bring about the terrible congenital deformities I have seen in medical books and have now witnessed first-hand, I come upon two sets of scripture verses that speak to me on this subject. The first is Ps 139:13-16 and the other is Romans and -21.

 

Ps 139:13-16 (NIV):

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

 

            Psalms 139 describes God as a very "hands on" Creator. The Hebrew words used here to describe the growth and development of the fetus are "sakak", meaning "knitted together" (v.13) and "raqam" indicating "a weaving together" (v. 15). They indicate that the creation of new life is a very involved and intricate process. As anyone who has ever done any knitting knows, you must keep your mind on what you are doing and not let it wander, unless you like doing a lot of tearing out later on. V.14 tells us that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made", showing us just how spectacularly complex is the development of a human embryo into a full-grown baby! V. 15 also indicates that nothing was hidden from God as we were being formed. Mistakes did not happen because God was "out to lunch" and momentarily not paying attention.  Nothing escapes God's notice, despite the baby's development within the secret, hidden cavity of the womb.

            Not only was the formation of our body something carefully watched over by God, but also the development of our mind, personality and emotional/psychological make-up. The word used for "innermost parts" (kilyah) can be directly translated as "kidneys", which in Hebrew thought represented the actual seat of the emotional/rational part of man. That is why this word is alternatively translated as "mind", "feelings" and "heart". Our basic personality type may well be defined during our fetal development. The very essence of who we will be as a person has already been "woven" into the fabric of our being before we were born.

            Additionally, v.16 tells us that "all our days were ordained" for us, even before we were born. God is not limited in space and time as we are. He saw all our "tomorrows" long before we even had our first "today". The major turning points in our lives were already preset by Him before we were born. He knows what crises and hardships await us (and has already made provision for this in our lives). God sees our path clearly, for He views the future just as easily as we see the present. Moreover, He is not hampered by our own limited perspective, but understands all that has happened to us in its true context.

            Not only does He have intimate knowledge of our future, v.16 says that God "ordained" all our days. The word that is used here is "yatzar". It is used elsewhere in Hebrew to describe that which a potter does to "form or shape" clay into a vessel he desires to make. By applying subtle pressure here, a gentle uplifting touch there, the formless lump of clay becomes the beautiful and very functional creation first visualized in the potter's mind and then brought to fruition by his great care and attention. He chooses each piece of clay carefully and lovingly creates a unique and very special vessel for his future purposes. There are no two made exactly the same- for there is no mindless mass-manufacturing done by this Potter. Each vessel is the loving creation of the skilled Artisan who also formed the entire universe and everything it. He designed every baby to be a unique and distinctive individual. Therefore with all of this scrupulous attention to detail, His intimate knowledge of us from before we were even born and His creation of each one of us for His own special purpose, it does not appear that there are any opportunities for mistakes to occur within this whole process.

 

Rom 5:12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-"

 

Rom 8:20-21 "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God."

 

            However, let us look into what happens in the womb from an entirely scientific point of view. The development of a microscopic fertilized egg into a fully functioning human baby involves complexities that man will probably never fully understand. Pondering the billions of biochemical interactions, cell divisions and developmental stages that must occur precisely on time and in the correct order to bring a viable baby to term just staggers the mind. There is a natural (physical) law which states that all systems and processes are prone to degeneration, decay and disorder over time. This basically means that "accidents are bound to happen". No natural process can long continue without some sort of error(s) cropping up. This is especially likely to occur the more complicated the process becomes- the more complex, the more probable it is that mistakes will happen. It is actually then a miraculous event to have a normal baby born when you consider the myriad possibilities for a disastrous developmental defect to arise.

            Why do we have a process such as fetal development that has such a built-in propensity for errors? Didn't God design a perfect world where there would be no defects or diseases? Then what happened? The answer comes in the consideration of the above two passages in Romans. We know that God's assessment of all that He had fashioned in the first six days was that His Creation was perfect and complete- "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). Then came Adam's sin, resulting in spiritual and physical death to every man to follow (Rom ). But it was not just man himself which was affected; the perfect world that God had created was also corrupted- all of nature became subjected to the consequences of sin. Rom tells us that the whole creation "became subjected to futility". The Greek word used there, "mataiotes", indicates "vanity or uselessness" or, going back to the root word, "mataios", denotes "emptiness". That which was perfect and self-sustaining became empty of its former glorious existence, and was now subject to the physical laws we know today, which tell us that everything in the universe is destined for decay and ultimate destruction. It is this quality of all matter since the Fall to undergo "corruption" (Gk: "phthora", meaning “destruction" or "perishability") that makes aging, disease, deformity and eventual death a "natural consequence" of life on this “corrupted” and imperfect world. 

 

Application to Our Life Lesson:

            So, we have a very difficult problem to solve. How do we reconcile the loving and caring God of Ps 139 who is so intimately involved in the development of each and every soul, with the fact that birth defects- sometimes very awful ones- occur in innocent babies? Does God, who is all-powerful and all-knowing, deliberately inflict such terrible defects on the helpless- or is He not really omnipotent and therefore unable to prevent bad things from happening? This is one of the "Why?" type of questions which has been plaguing man from the beginning. Although I may not be able to satisfy everyone with a perfect explanation, I shall attempt one which I hope will have application to our particular topic.

            When God created us with the ability to exercise free will- literally giving us the power to "thumb our nose" at the Creator of the Universe, even allowing us to reject His wondrous offer of an eternal relationship with Him- there came with it the responsibility to bear the consequences of our actions. We reviewed the results of man's sin in the section above- the corruption of all creation and the entry of disease, deformity and death into the world. These diseases and defects are not necessarily the direct result of each man's own sin in the sense that if I underpay a parking attendant in the morning, I will lose my wallet with all my money the same afternoon. There are definite negative consequences that are directly linked to sinful behavior, such as promiscuity leading to contracting a sexually transmitted disease, even AIDS. Yet there are often serious consequences that fall upon innocent parties, such as the faithful wife being infected with an STD by her adulterous husband, or even a baby born with HIV to an AIDS-infected prostitute. This is hardly seems "fair" to us, in that we have this inherent sense of wanting only the guilty to suffer and the innocent to escape any hardship. Yet, as fallen humanity, there is no person who can live their life without repeatedly committing sins, which in turn will affect more "innocent" people. "There is none righteous, no not one" (Rom ).

            Thus, there truly are no "innocents" living in this world. As a consequence of our parent's parents, going all the way back to Adam, we are all born into sin. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me" (Ps 51:5). The end result is that genetic abnormalities and congenital defects happen as a consequence of man's fallen nature and the corruption of what should have been God's perfect world. But how then does God's grace come into play? How is it that we can maintain that God was carefully watching over us in our mother's womb and yet acknowledge that serious birth defects often occur?

            The answer comes when we consider the wisdom and character of God. We are told that our human minds are incapable of fully comprehending the intricacies of God's plans for us. Rom says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" His divine character is one which truly delights in doing the "impossible", of proving that He is the Master of every situation. It is the awesome power and wisdom of God which can take the deformed, the "defective", even the irreparably "broken" dregs of humanity and transform them through the wonders of His love into people of spiritual depth and beauty.

            It is within this framework that we can conceptualize how God could allow such a terrible birth defect to occur, as in the example our baby. First, this deformity as we perceive it, does not "offend" God in the slightest. It is only in the shallowness of our own hearts and the superficiality of our perceptions that we find this baby's defect "offensive" to us. We only see the external, but "God looks upon the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). The only person in my patient's room who was displaying anything of the character of God that day was the mother. She was the one who could lovingly look beyond the obvious facial deformities and see the beauty of that baby's precious soul within. That was what moved me to tears and simultaneously rebuked me for my spiritual immaturity.

            It is my sincere belief that God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed that baby to develop in the womb with her congenital abnormality. He had already prepared the mother (and this proved true for the father of the child as well) to love and care for her baby in a very special way. I have seen many babies born into this world, but I would gladly bear witness that this child will be receiving more love and attention from her parents than any of the "perfect" babies that have been born in that hospital. With so many abused and neglected children in this world, I know that this one will have a far better chance at succeeding in her life than many others. To those like myself, whose eyes and hearts were limited by our own spiritual superficiality, this family suffered a tragic accident of fetal development. But to God and to the baby's parents, this is an opportunity to experience the type of faith, hope and love which only He can provide.

 

Are the Transgendered a Mistake?

            So, where do the transgendered fit in to the grand scheme of things? Earlier in this book, we analyzed what makes us transgendered in the first place. The answer appears to lie in changes that occur to the fetal brain during early stages of development. Once our gender identity is set, there is no effective way of changing it. Medical and psychiatric interventions directed at modifying our self-concept have all been failures. Thus, the transgendered truly represent a unique type of congenital abnormality which is totally invisible at birth and undetectable by any blood tests. Gender Dysphoria (GD- also referred to as Transsexualism) usually manifests itself in early childhood, but often doesn't reach the "crisis" stage until much later in life. But, it fits all the other criteria for being a "congenital defect"- existing at the time of birth, rendering an individual "abnormal" (certainly beyond the range of what society finds acceptable) and it causes major distress to the person who has this "problem".

            Especially those of us who are Christians have agonized over our inability to reconcile who we know ourselves to be "on the inside" and what is evidenced by our own physical bodies. There is not a single one of us who has not struggled mightily to somehow drive out this person of the opposite sex from our lives and our conscious thoughts. We have sought spiritual healings, miraculous interventions, made bargain after bargain with God to somehow make our minds and bodies come into agreement. We have cursed ourselves for our weakness, chastised ourselves severely and repeatedly and we have repented of our "sin" innumerable times!

Many transgendered Christians have been so destroyed by their inability to conform to the world's (and the church's) image of being the male or female they are supposed to be, that they have been drawn into drugs, alcohol and even sex addictions. Amazingly, these same people have later testified to being miraculously delivered from these overpowering sins- literally being healed on the spot in response to prayer. Yet the one thing that God did not appear to grant them is divine healing from the cause of their problems in the first place, their gender identity conflict. There just does not seem to be any well validated accounts (or at least if it has actually occurred, it is extremely rare) of anyone being divinely cured of GD.

            One might ask, "Why doesn't God heal all these very sincere people who beseech Him with broken hearts, through nights of tears and pleadings?" Wouldn't a merciful God want to put an end to a lifetime of struggle, shame and self-recrimination? Does not God wish to have us forsake our "sinful" thoughts and desires?” The answer to these questions comes very simply- being transgendered and believing the way we do is just not sin in the first place. There is no more need to repent of having Gender Dysphoria than there is for asking forgiveness for being born blind. The disciples wrongly presumed that it was because of sin that the man of John 9 was blind from birth. They didn't know on whom to place the blame- on the parents or the man himself, but they were positive that his blindness was a punishment for somebody's sins. But what did Jesus say? "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents, but is was so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (v. 3). God does not choose to heal us of our transgendered nature simply because He specifically designed us to be this way in the first place.

            Being born transgendered is not a mistake. God has a purpose for every one of us He created this way. My greatest problem with being born a transsexual did not come from the discomfort of having to live my life as a male when I knew all along that I was really a female inside. My greatest pain and agony resulted from my blindness and unwillingness to recognize that I was made the way I was in order that "the works of God may be displayed in me!" Once I came to this understanding- that God loves me and purposefully made me the way I am, my heart, mind, soul and spirit were set free. I began to experience all the love and splendor of a relationship with a most loving Father to whom I could never before fully give myself because I always felt my life was just one big mistake! It took four decades for Him to finally get this across to me. And there are so many others, transgendered like myself, who still struggle with that same lack of understanding and acceptance. Most of them are so afraid of what their church and their brethren in Christ will think and do to them that they dare not seek help or guidance even from their pastors (who, unfortunately, may become their most ardent accusers, once they reveal themselves).

            One of the great wonders of God, as we mentioned in the case of the baby we discussed, is that He is never caught unawares. His unfathomable wisdom and knowledge always seem to win out. We have the assurance that "all things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Rom ). When we finally and fully submit to His divine plan for us, accepting our transgenderedness not as a curse but truly as a blessing and a special gift from God, then He will be able to use us in ways that we never thought possible. Our ability to look at the world from both male and female perspectives can also give us insight and sensitivity into other people's lives that no one else has. Our struggles and pain, and the comfort God provided to us through it all, can enable us to console others who are in anguish and severe distress with the same loving care He supplied to us in abundance (2 Cor 1:3-5).

God earnest desire for His “special” children is for them to be loosed from their bondage to a false belief that they are somehow "defective” and spiritually “unredeemable”. He wants to release us into the incredible freedom we have in Christ. We are not to bemoan the fact that we are unique and different from most everyone around us, but rather we are to rejoice that we have been "fearfully and wonderfully made" for God's own special purposes. It can be a joyous life unlike anything the "normal" people can experience. It can even eclipse all the pain and prior struggling we experienced in the past. That's just how wise and wonderful our heavenly Father is!

 

            Finally, to everyone, even those who ardently oppose or wish to vilify their transgendered brothers and sisters in Christ, I heartily agree with you on at least this one issue:

                                    "God Does Not Make Mistakes!"

 

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