Finding Hope in the Storms of Life

Posted by: pamelajo in Adversity

Tagged in: women , suffering , peace , overcomer , hope , faith , depression , death , cancer

 Jan and Mike

Transcribed from Testimony tape.  

By Pam Whitley 

I always like to start out by making sure everyone knows that I'm one of those GRITS girls....Girls Raised In The South…and I am telling you that for a reason. Even though I've lost most of my accent, and believe me I have, because when I first moved to Oklahoma, people would say things like “let me hear you say so and so again. Then they'd practically roll in the floor laughing when I said whatever.  So even though I've lost most of my accent, I still use different terms for things than some of my Oklahoma friends do.  For example, they go out and start their cars; I crank mine. They go to the grocery store and find a parking place, I find a park. They go into the grocery store and get a shopping cart; I get a buggy!  By the way, just for my own information, how many of you get a buggy? 

You may be wondering how this Mississippi gal became an Okie...well, I fell in love. It was the summer before my freshman year of college, and a typical Sunday morning at my little church (which was twelve miles out in the country) until all of us girls on the back row saw this good looking young man walk in. I think we all thought God had just answered our prayers….and one and one half years later after he graduated from OSU, he and I were married in that same little church.  We lived near my folks for two more years and then he transferred back to Oklahoma. On the day we moved, I found out for certain that I was pregnant…I'd thought I was either pregnant or dying because I had thrown up for weeks. Seven months later our first child(a wonderful little boy) was born. 

When our son was two, my first big trial occurred. My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Now as a child growing up, in that same little church where I met my husband, I also met Jesus. I'd always known about Him from the time I was a toddler, but didn't really understand until I was eleven years old that I needed to accept what He had done on the cross and invite Him into my life….in fact, I still to this day have my old diary where I wrote about my experience. It reads, “Today is the most important day of my life because I invited Jesus Christ into my life."  So as this trial hit, I knew where to draw my strength from, I just wasn't doing it…I was looking at the storm instead! 

The Draining Trips 

Over the next six months I flew back and forth to Mississippi to help take care of my dad. If I was in Mississippi, I felt like I needed to be in Oklahoma and I worried about my husband trying to get by without me, and if I was in Oklahoma, I worried about my what my mom and dad were going through in Mississippi. Pretty soon, worry consumed me and I developed Colitis. The doctor gave me Valium and B-12 shots to keep me going.  During one of my trips home to Oklahoma, a friend brought me a copy of a book called, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boon… I didn’t have time to read it and left it in OK….arriving in Mississippi, my Aunt came up to the hospital and she brought me a copy of…you guessed it, “The Hiding Place”. So sitting at the foot of my dad’s hospital bed, feeling very sorry for him and very sorry for myself, I started to read Corrie’s Ten Boom’s story. Imprisoned in a concentration camp in Germany, Corrie shared how her sister Betsy was the one with the really strong faith. Betsy would talk about how good and faithful God was and as they sat in the midst of the concentration, Corrie had a hard time agreeing with Betsy.  Betsy said they should praise God for everything and Corrie spouted off… ”I bet you even think we should praise Him for these fleas….to which Betsy said “yes”..and then praised Him for the fleas!….Later Corrie would find out the reason their barracks were left alone and the women were not bothered by the guards and they could hold bible studies with their little hidden Bible was because of the fleas.  Corrie eventually lost her entire family but while in the concentration camp, God met her vital needs one day at a time. As I read her story, God spoke to my heart and said, “Pam, I love you just as much as I loved Corrie, I want to meet your needs just as I did hers but you have to turn to Me and trust Me just as Corrie did. So far, I had just prayed “heal my daddy, heal my daddy” but that day I started to open my Bible, and read the same passages that Corrie had read in that concentration camp and God begin to strengthen me.  I threw away the valium and by the time my dad died, I had Peace.

 January's Baby 

On January 1 of 1978, our second child was born. Janice Marie Whitley…Oklahoma City’s New Year’s baby. Many times people ask me, "what was having the first baby of the new year like? Did you get lots of presents?"  "No, what I did get was to be on channel 4 and channel 5 just a few hours after giving birth with no makeup on and my bangs sticking straight up in the air!!!… I don’t recommend it!" 

Eight days later found us at children’s Hospital with Jan undergoing open heart surgery…she was  born with a congenital heart defect that wasn't detectable at birth and on the eighth day after her birth, Jan went into heart failure.  During the surgery, Jan went into shock and stopped breathing for fifteen minutes…in those minutes, we forever lost our normal little girl.

On the fifth day following the surgery, the doctor’s told us that they thought that Jan was brain dead.  They would run one more test and if it showed no brain activity, they would ask us to sign papers to take Jan off life support.  A group of us gathered in the chapel at Children’s and as I knelt by the altar, my thoughts went like this… “God where are you?  Do you care what is happening here? Don’t you know that my baby is dying?” As I thought those thoughts, from the back of the chapel, a friend began to read these words from God’s road map..the Bible…. “You made all the delicate inner parts of my body, and You knit them together in my mother womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  It is amazing to think about.  You workmanship is wonderful…and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and You scheduled each day of my life before I begin to breath.  Every day was recorded in Your book. How precious it is Lord to know that You are thinking about me constantly!”  As she read those words, I knew God was speaking to me. He had seen Jan before she was even born….he knew about her heart defect, it had not blind sided God…..then I remembered that on the day Jan was born, Mike and I had had a time of prayer and given Jan’s life over to God…but all week I had prayed, “heal my baby, Take my baby…but I had always said “MY baby!! And at that altar I began to pray, “Lord, this child is Yours, not mine and You love her far more than I do. I ask that Your will be done in her life”.  Mike prayed a very similar prayer…when we finished praying, we were both filled with Peace…in fact, I said, “I don’t know what has happened, nothing has changed, our baby is still dying, but I feel such joy.” Our pastor said, that is the peace that passes all understanding that the Bible speaks of.  The presence of Jesus so permeated the chapel that I felt I could almost reach out and touch the hem of His garment.

We were never asked to sign those papers and after a couple of days, Jan came out of the coma. Little did we know then that Jan would be forever an infant…except in size.  We could not conceive then that she would never walk or talk or speak a word, that she would be labeled profoundly brain damaged and multiple handicapped. We just knew God gave her back…and even the doctor’s said it was a miracle.  We had no idea that we were heading into the fiercest battle of out life but God knew.

After over a month of hospitalization, we brought Jan home the second time.  This time, Jan no longer had a sucking reflex, she no longer had the ability to stop crying once she started, her thermostat was damaged so if she cried too much, her temperature could quickly spike to 105, and that was with no infection.  Her body was racked with severe seizures, and I had no medical training.  Jan slept very little because the part of her brain that would allow her to relax was also damaged. Each day became a fight for survival both for Jan and for me.  One night at 2 a.m. as I stood under the fireplace spotlight swaying Jan (for some reason that would help Jan to calm down) Jan was having one awful seizure after another. I became so angry with God…I cried out to Him, “Why did this have to happen to my child, why did this happen to our life? WHY???  Then He showed me Jesus on the Cross with the blood dripping down from his head and his feet and hands and God spoke to my heart and said, “Is the servant greater than the One he serves?”  As I thought about that and thought of the son of God choosing to leave His home in Glory and come and die on a cross for me, I wept and said, “Lord, forgive me!

Life was tough and the nights were long.  There was very little sleep to be had. I quickly learned that I didn't have the strength to survive this battle.  As I prayed, God showed me first of all that the battle was not mine, but His and that He would help me through, I just had to turn everything over to Him in prayer and keep His Word flowing in every way that I could. I bought Christian music and kept the Christian radio station on.  AND His word time and time again sustained me.

Jan had so many medical problems that we had to choose which ones to deal with first.  The seizures were the most pressing. Our doctor sent us to a pediatric neurologist in an attempt to get them under control.  This expert ran his tests, all the while treating Jan like a sack of potatoes. Then he sat me down and said, “This child is severely brain damaged.  She will never smile or respond in any way…you should put her into an institution and get on with your lives.” I looked at him in stunned silence. This was my daughter he was talking about…and I knew God had a plan for her life.

When the appointment was over, I went home totally devastated. Without realizing it, I let those words knock the faith out of me.  I continued to go through the motions of living, but I lost my joy. Again, God always meets you where you are.  One morning I picked up a little devotional book and as I read it said, “Resignation to My will is a greater barrier than unbelief.” I knew God was speaking to me.  I slowly read it again, “Resignation to My will is a greater barrier than unbelief!”  I had to think on that for awhile. Then I saw it.  I had without realizing it resigned myself to the fact that my life would never be any different and that Jan’s life would never be any different. I had believed every negative word that the doctor had said.  By doing so, I had lost my hope. And dear one, where there is no hope, there is no faith.

I realized that I wasn’t trusting God to work in our situation. I wasn’t trusting Him to take something hopeless and work it to our good. I had, in fact, closed the door to his blessing by my resignation. I was walking in self-pity rather than faith. In fact, here is what resignation does…. “Resignation puts God in a box and says, “My situation is hopeless.  Resignation says, “I accept this, but I can’t see how anything good can come out of it. Resignation is disappointment with “my lot in life.”  Resignation focuses on self and feels sorry for self.  The truth is resignation blocks God’s blessings.  True acceptance trusts God in spite of what I see.  True acceptance trusts that God can work “even this” to my good and expects God to move. True acceptance focuses on God and His word, not on the circumstance and true acceptance continues to praise God in all things!! Resignation or acceptance is a choice that I continue to have to make over and over. Friends, have you become resigned to some situation in your life, perhaps your marriage, or a situation with your child, or your finances or your health?  Resignation will block what God desires to do and He does want to work everything to our good

Thankfully, I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I once again remembered God had given Jan back to us.  I would expect Him to work all of this to our good.

At that point, Jan did not smile or respond in any way. We asked Him to heal her but above all, we asked that Jan be happy. Eventually God led us on a program that was called the hardest program in the world. Jan was thirteen months old when we started it…and she weighed thirteen pounds. Over a period of two years, we did an intense program with Jan, We had a total of 120 volunteers and during that time they all got to see a little girl who did not respond turn into a delightful child who laughed and giggled and was delighted with her world. Jan never did walk, crawl, talk or use her hands….she remained forever as a two to six month old. Music became the love of her life and with her childlike Christian tapes playing twenty-four hours a day, Jan delighted daily in life and eventually had her own little ministry..a ministry of love.

Many crisis’s have come and gone with Jan. When I reached forty-three and Jan reached seventy-nine pounds….my health started to be effected by the constant loss of sleep and the lifting. It finally dawned on me that if I lost my health, then the whole family was in trouble.  My prayer had always been for God to allow me to take care of Jan as long as she lived. I assumed that was his will, it certainly was what my mother’s heart wanted....I'd not asked Him.  Finally I did pray and ask God what was His will in this matter.  From the time I prayed that prayer, within three weeks, a door opened for Jan to become a resident at a pediatric nursing center for critcal care children. It is one of seven such places in the United States and it was only five miles from our front door.  Placing Jan there was extremely hard…I was turning my baby’s care over to strangers.  I'd taken care of her for almost seventeen fact, her life had depended on my care everyday. Even though I knew this was what we were supposed to do, it was devastating. God had the whole picture though and He truly knew best.  

The Bible says…And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.…that doesn't mean life wont carry pain or does, but I do believe God desires to shape and mold us through every trial we face and then allow that very trial to be a platform from which we can minister to others.  Dear ones, what seemingly impossible trials have you been through?  Have they made you bitter or better?  Have you turned them over to our All-powerful God?  IF you haven’t, it isn’t too late.  In fact, it could be something that happened in your childhood…I am telling you He wants to weave that very thing into a blessing.  He is so frugal; He literally takes what the devil meant for evil and brings forth blessing. We always stand with a choice as trials enter our lives…we choose how we receive them.  There is absolutely nothing that He can’t take and bring good out of.  BUT we are the only ones who can turn the trial over to Him and allow Him to work.  Remember, where there is no hope, there is no faith.  He want make us give our hurts or disappointments to Him.

Dear ones, each year with Jan was both a blessing and a battle but each step of the way, God has been faithful.  God used those years to prepare me for yet more tough days. In the fall of 2000, we found out due to Jan’s age, we were going to have to move her from the pediatric nursing center to an elderly care nursing center.  Most nursing homes do not take any one under fifty-four…and it seemed the ones that did, we were not willing for Jan to go to. After crying my way through many unacceptable facilities, we chose a Mennonite facility in Western Oklahoma. This facility was almost two hours away and I was accustomed to visiting Jan almost every day.  Once again, I pleaded and pleaded with God to open a door near by for Jan. I didn’t think I could bear to have her so far away. But no door opened, and Jan was moved two hours away.  During this time, Mike, my husband, was working very long hours….it seemed I barely saw him but ironically, the companies that Mike was drilling for all seemed to move their wells in the direction of where Jan was….so every week, I met Mike near where Jan was. We'd spend the night in a nearby motel and we did this for 11/2 years….Mike and I spent very special time together each week.  You see, God knew all that was yet coming into our lives, and He ordained this move for Jan. Would I ever learn that when I can’t trace God’s hand, I can trust His Heart?

In 2002, Jan became very ill and was moved to the Baptist Hospital in our city and was there for fifty days.  When she came out of the hospital, we were able to place her at a nursing home three miles from our front door.  She was on Hospice and the doctors gave her less than six months to live. Once again, in God’s timing He moved Jan near because less than three months after Jan moved near us, Mike was diagnosed with cancer….I see that time we spent together in Western Oklahoma as a precious treasure given by God.  

The Diagnosis 

Mike played golf one day in June of 2002 and that evening found a knot under his arm…by July 5, we had the diagnosis…..Malignant Melanoma..the deadliest form of skin cancer. My sister had died of it 13 months earlier.  From the beginning, as shocked as we were by the diagnosis, we both agreed that this did not blind side God and we clung once again to the precious scripture given to us when Jan suffered her brain damage....taken from the Old testament….

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! IT is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous---how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw was me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in Your Book! 

For awhile, it looked like Mike was responding to the treatment until a routine MRI right after Christmas showed a brain tumor. At that point, Mike knew how critical things were. He once again prayed and this time he told God he was ready to go home if He was ready for him…but he asked God for three things….to see our second grandbaby born (he was due in April of 2003, to pay off our home from continuing to work, and to be around for our first born grandson’s third birthday which was in July.  Mike had two brain surgeries and three gamma knife surgeries in the months that followed.  He continued to be able to work with my assistance, I drove him the 300 or so miles round trip that he made daily for the last 5 months of his life.  Mike was an extremely smart man and he continued to be able to do calculations in his head that most people can’t do with a calculator and at the last, that was with seven new brain tumors. Mike fought it hard but August 8th of 2003, we went on Hospice.  On Monday night August 18, Mike woke me up and said “I just want to tell you how much I love and tell you bye. Tell the kids I love them.” My arm was across him and I could feel his heart pounding. I said, “How do you know you are leaving?”

 “Oh, I see Jesus!”

I asked him to describe what he saw, and he said he saw Jesus surrounded by hundreds of lights. He held me close and eventually we both fell back asleep. When Mike awoke the next morning still in his pain ridden body, he was rather hacked off and he was disappointed. He began to question, “why did I see Jesus, and why did he leave me? Did I miss Him someway?  Did I do something wrong?”  

We went back to the Bible and read many of His words…among them For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not parish but have everlasting life.  And another one 1For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies--we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.  And Mike smiled and said, “God made it simple , didn’t He?”

"Yes," I said as I reassured him and hugged him tight. "He paid the price and thank God, He paved the way for us to spend Eternity with him.  Looks like you're going to beat me there but I'l join you later."

By the time Mike died on August 22, God had answered all three of his prayers. He died with peace in his heart. When he drew his last breathe, I knew where his next breath was taken. 

Jan died two and one half years after Mike... at the age of twenty-eight. In my heart, I could almost see her running into her Daddy's arms. Through it all, God has held me, comforted me, led me, and guided me. It hasn't been easy but without Him, I wouldn't have survived. He's there for you too.  Do you know Him?  Do you know where you'll spend Eternity?  Today you can make certain that you too receive His Eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 3I passed on to you what I received. And this was the most important: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say: that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day….

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whosoever believes in Him should not parish but have Everlasting Life.”

If you've never asked Jesus into your life, please ask HIM now.  I'd be so humbled if from the story of Mike and Jan, you'd find HIM. He's just a prayer away and He'll never leave or forsake you.  

Please pray: Father I’m one of those whosoevers that is choosing this day to believe in you., I’ve messed up many times. I've missed the mark. Please forgive me and come into my life….be Lord of my life.  I give control to you.  Thank you, Lord, for dying for me. Thank you for bringing me new life.  

When you prayed, He heard and He answered.   Start to read His Word and follow Him. You've got white eternal pages to write the rest of your life story on....start writing.

For more of my journey go to or

Also you can read Jan and Mike's obituary online...type   "Janice Marie Whitley" in quotes in your search engine and that should pull it up.  They are buried beside each other  at Olive Hill Cemetery in OKC. 

Would you like to know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus?

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Comments (8)Add Comment
Paul Greenleaf
Paul Greenleaf
February 01, 2010

Thank you for sharing your story. How can people face such trials without God??? Thank you for clearly pointing to a Saviour that rescues, comforts, guides, lifts, and is patient with us when we question His ways...and He does give us comfort in our mourning. It is a present comfort with a future fulfillment when our mourning will be ended when we get to heaven...heaven our real home.

Paul Greenleaf
Paul Greenleaf
February 01, 2010

Thank you for sharing your story. How can people face such trials without God??? Thank you for clearly pointing to a Saviour that rescues, comforts, guides, lifts, and is patient with us when we question His ways...and He does give us comfort in our mourning. It is a present comfort with a future fulfillment when our mourning will be ended when we get to heaven...heaven our real home.

February 02, 2010

Thank you for sharing your story; I know it has and will touch many lives for the kingdom. And, thank you for introducing me to this website.

February 03, 2010

What a remarkable story of God's faithfulness to His faithful. May God continue to use Jan and Mike's story for His Glory and may He give you protection, strength and wisdom as you continue to work for Him.

September 06, 2012

I am cleaning out my mother-in-law's home and preparing it for an estate sale. Today I ran across a booklet that you wrote called "Follow the Shepherd for Comfort". Every member of my family is going through some very tough challenges, individually and collectively. I was wondering if the booklet is still in print. What a wonderful, healing message! We each feel overwhelmed with grief and fear of the future. My faith and my relationship with Jesus (and my women's Bible Studies) will get me through...but my precious daughters and grandchildren need the help that this little booklet provides.

Pam Whitley
September 06, 2012

Tricia, I do have the Follow THe Shepherd for Comfort booklets. Let me know if I can send you some. I'm sorry that you and your family are walking through such hard days. May God comfort and strengthen you.

September 07, 2012

I would love to buy some. My email is

Fanie Hennig
January 19, 2014

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Joh 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Joh 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

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