Leaning and Learning

February 08, 2021

God used a time of deep sadness to draw Linda and her husband closer to each other and to Him.

By Linda Zetter

M

y Christian heritage started before I was even born. Most of my grandparents were Christians, and my parents grew up in homes where the Word of God was read and they saw answers to prayer. My parents were both saved on the same day in March of 1948. Later, they married and in a few years I came into their lives. They took me to Sunday school and church from as far back as I can remember. I watched the lives of my Sunday school teachers and knew they had the same thing my parents and grandparents had. They were living examples of what Christians should be.

As a child, I was rebellious. If my parents told me to do something, I wanted to do just the opposite. I remember thinking that I could do whatever I wanted, and no doubt this caused my parents much heartache. Although I was always too scared to go deep into sin, I knew there was sin in my heart, and I was unhappy. I wanted a life like my school friends, but I also wanted a life like my Christian friends. The Spirit of God would speak to my heart, but my rebellion kept me from yielding to the Lord. However, one day, the conviction was so strong that I surrendered to Him and was saved.

When I was twenty years old, I married Mark, who was also a Christian. We started our life together looking to the future, buying our first home, and wanting a child. Little did we know what the Lord had in store for us. Soon we found out that we were going to have a baby. What joy I felt in my heart when I thought about being a mother!

To me she looked healthy, but as soon as the doctors saw her, they knew something was wrong. The nurse allowed me to look at her for a few minutes, and then they took her away.

On April 9, 1973, Angela Sue Zetter was born. To me she looked healthy, but as soon as the doctors saw her, they knew something was wrong. The nurse allowed me to look at her for a few minutes, and then they took her away. I really didn’t realize what was going on. The doctors were working on me because my blood pressure was extremely high, and they thought that I could have a stroke.

My husband and mother-in-law were with Angela as she was transferred to Doernbecher hospital. Mark was able to be with our baby throughout the day. I was so sick that the doctors would not allow anyone to see me except family, and my parents came to stay with me.

At the end of the day, Mark returned heavy-hearted to tell me what the doctors had reported. When I saw him, I knew that he didn’t have good news. I remember thinking, Is our baby going to die? Mark began to tell me about her birth defects. The doctors said they could do surgery, but could not promise that she would make it through the surgery. If she lived, there would need to be many more surgeries and she would endure much pain, and she still would not be able to have a normal life. We had to decide whether to have the first surgery or not.

We knew that God could heal our baby if it was His will, but we also realized that might not be His plan. If God did not intervene and we chose the surgery, our hearts ached to think about the daughter we loved suffering so much. As we prayed and then made the decision not to have the surgery, a peace came over us.

I realized that even though I had become a Christian when I was young, my walk with God had grown cold. I knew that the Lord wanted to be my Comfort and Friend, but I had chosen to lessen my communication with Him.

After Mark left that night, I was alone with my thoughts. I realized that even though I had become a Christian when I was young, my walk with God had grown cold. I knew that the Lord wanted to be my Comfort and Friend, but I had chosen to lessen my communication with Him. Alone in my hospital room, I asked the Lord to take full control of my life and renew my first love for Him. He came down and wrapped His arms around me and carried me through.

Angela only lived three days, but her brief life helped to get my life back on track with the Lord. God was with us as we went through the graveside service. He sent wonderful people into our lives. Our parents took care of many things, offering their love, support, and prayers. My aunt and uncle donated a cemetery plot. One of our ministers, Lowell Montgomery, was right there for us with Scriptures and prayer. Many people were praying for us, and we could feel those prayers. The experience brought Mark and me much closer together. We found out how strong our love was for each other, and our walk with the Lord became stronger.

Over the years since that time, I have been called to hospitals to talk with other young mothers whose children were sick or dying. Each time I’ve asked the Lord to go before me and lead me in the right words to say. He truly has given me the strength to do it.

The summer after losing Angela, I was asked to go to our church youth camp as a counselor. When we arrived at the camp, there were plenty of counselors, so I was allowed to participate as one of the students. God was having His way in that too. He had sanctified me earlier, and I knew that I needed my baptism. At the very first chapel meeting, there was a great hunger in my heart. The chapel services were being held in a tent in the middle of a field. Under that big white tent, God’s Spirit surrounded me and He baptized me with the Holy Ghost.

Some months later, God blessed Mark and me with a healthy baby girl, and two years after that we had a son. Over the years, God has answered numerous prayers. Many times, He healed our children. Our daughter was very sick when she was about six months old. A series of special church services was going on at the time, and Mark offered to stay home with her so I could attend church. We put a request in at the prayer time before service, asking that the Lord would heal her. Mark had laid her on the bed and was praying too at the time the prayer requests were read. All of a sudden, her still body began to move in an excited manner and she started kicking her feet in the air. Mark knew that God had touched her. When I returned home, both of them were on the bed playing. She was happy and looked well. I asked Mark when she began getting better. He said around 7:30 she sat up on the bed and started to play. We knew that the Lord had heard our request that was made before the meeting and had answered that prayer.

Another time when our son was about six weeks old, he suddenly passed out while his uncle was holding him. It was very scary. However, his uncle just dropped to his knees in the hallway of our home and began to pray. We all gathered around and prayed as well. God heard our prayers and touched our son right away.

For most people, reading isn’t a bad thing. However, it kept me from cleaning my house and taking care of my husband and children, because when I was reading, I ignored my family’s needs.

God has taught me lessons along the way. Reading was a love of my life from the time I was a child. My parents used to limit my reading to five books a week! After Mark and I were married, I continued to read. For most people, reading isn’t a bad thing. However, it kept me from cleaning my house and taking care of my husband and children, because when I was reading, I ignored my family’s needs. I read up to two books a day. One camp meeting during a Bible study, the minister spoke about reading material that is edifying. He mentioned that romance novels were not something good to occupy the mind with. Our daughter, who was about five years old, said in a very loud voice, “Mommy, you read those crummy romance books.” It was as if a knife went right through my heart. The Lord showed me that she was watching me. Through much prayer, God helped me give those books to Him. Now I am very careful about what I read and limit myself to small intervals of time.

About eight years ago, Mark woke up in the night with horrible pain. A few months before, he had signed up with the Veterans Administration for medical treatments, so we took him that night to the VA hospital. I went home with a heavy heart, praying that the Lord would be with him. Mark called me early the next morning telling me he was going to have to have surgery. The doctors had discovered that he had two carcinoid tumors, and they removed twenty-six inches of his bowel that day. Both tumors were cancerous. God was with our children and me as we waited at the hospital during the surgery. At one point, a gentleman came up to me and put a wooden cross in my hand, and said, “You need this more than I do.” I still carry that cross in my purse today as a reminder.

Mark was in the hospital for ten days, and we could feel the prayers of our church family at that time. Mark started to worry about the hospital bill, so I went down to the billing department to see how much we would owe. The young man behind the desk looked up Mark’s account on the computer and said to me, “You will not owe anything except $8.00 for your prescriptions.” I knew we could have been facing a huge hospital bill, but the Lord had stepped in and performed a miracle. Mark was overjoyed.

During the time he was in treatment following the surgery, Mark was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his time serving as an infantryman in Vietnam before we were married. Over the years he had struggled with the memories of all he had experienced during the war, but managed to deal with it on his own for the most part. A doctor explained to us that it’s common for PTSD to become severe following another traumatic experience, such as the sudden cancer surgery Mark had just undergone.

We went through a very hard time not knowing what to expect. We did not know when the debilitating flashbacks would happen or how long they would last. God helped us along the way to look to Him, and rather than being defeated by the situation, we learned to depend more on God.

We went through a very hard time not knowing what to expect. We did not know when the debilitating flashbacks would happen or how long they would last. God helped us along the way to look to Him, and rather than being defeated by the situation, we learned to depend more on God. When Mark would go through a particularly difficult period, we would ask our church family to pray. What a comfort to know the people of God can go to prayer, and the Lord hears and answers those prayers. Looking back, we can see how God had His hand even in allowing the cancer, because that is what led to the PTSD diagnosis and to us learning the tools that would help overcome it. God has been so good, and today I am so grateful that Mark has been cancer free for eight years.

Often I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t given my heart to the Lord. Mark and I are grandparents now. There have been some dark times, but God has always been there. He is a great source of strength, comfort, and healing. I can truly say that I love the Lord with all my heart.

About the author

Linda Zetter attends the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon.