Some of you may have landed at this page after receiving a little card from some guy after asking about his tattoo. Others of you may have ended up here because you know me and you saw a link to this page on Twitter or Instagram or some other social media platform. Still others may have ended up here because someone you know forwarded the link to you. Regardless of why you're here, I'm glad you are and I appreciate you being willing to take a few minutes to read our story. I'll try to keep everything as concise and clutter-free as possible, but I ask that if you start reading the paragraphs below, that you will continue to the end. This isn't an easy story to tell and I can't imagine that it's an easy one to read, but it's important for both of us. It's important for me because it helps bring healing and it shows that I have not lost because I'm still standing and I'm still fighting. It's important for you because you will inevitably see parallels between my story and yours and maybe this is the encouragement you needed to get through the swamp that lies before you.
In December 2011, my wife and I found out that we were pregnant with our second child. We already had one little boy and after trying for a few months, we were on our way to growing our family once again. Although I've never been a huge fan of announcing pregnancy using goofy pictures, my wife Tiffanie was adamant that we do something fun to announce our second baby and since it was around Christmas time, we gave this photo as a gift to our families. You can't see it, but under the word Prego, I added the phrase "there's a bun in the oven."
Although the first couple of months went by smoothly, the earth beneath our feet began to crumble bit by bit after a routine ultrasound to determine the gender of the baby. We had been hoping for a little girl, but as soon as they told us it was a boy, we were absolutely thrilled that little Jude Clark Voight would be joining our family. Unfortunately, that excitement quickly faded as the nurse started calling in other doctors who all seemed to have very concerned looks on their faces. After checking out Jude's heart, they found that there were only three chambers rather than four - a condition which would be life-threatening without multiple surgeries throughout the first few years of his life. Needless to say, we were terrified, but agreed to continue forward and plan on him going through multiple surgeries after birth.
I wish I could say that was the worst of it, but it was only the beginning. Four weeks after learning about Jude's heart condition, Tiffanie and I got a call from the doctor early in the morning asking us to come in for an urgent meeting. In that meeting, we were told that our precious little boy's heart condition was actually being caused by a fatal and incurable genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. The average life expectancy for a baby with Trisomy 18 was 12 days, however they told us that Jude would only be able to make it a few hours at the most because of the heart condition, and surgery was out of the question as this specific genetic disorder attacks and deforms all of the major organs.
We were crushed. Our world was spinning. How could this possibly be real? We were both healthy, loving parents. Neither of us had ever suffered from some sort of genetic issues. Our first pregnancy went by perfectly without any issues and he was, and still is, one of the toughest kids I know. Although life may not have ever quite been perfect for us, things had always been pretty good. We were what many church people would call "blessed." And yet here we were facing the most terrible news of our lives with no clue what to do.
Having grown up in a non-denominational/charismatic/full-gospel/etc. church as the preacher's kid, I found myself in the middle of a deafening war between believing that God can heal and knowing that good, Godly people die and lose loved ones every day. On one hand, I felt like maybe I needed to reject every single bit of reality that had been placed in front of me and just go forward pretending and assuming that God would give me whatever I wanted as long as I "confessed" it over and over and over. After all, there are entire denominations based on the premise that God will give you whatever you want/feel as long as you just have "faith." But deep down inside, I knew that wasn't right. I knew that putting God in a box like that could only lead to discouragement and disappointment. I've known plenty of people throughout my life who put way too much faith in the results and way too little faith in God and as soon as they didn't get the results they wanted, they decided that God had failed them or didn't care about them.
On the other hand, I thought maybe the best course of action was to just accept hopelessness and try to begin moving on now so it doesn't hurt as bad when the worst happens. Maybe I should find a way to callus my heart now so I don't feel the pain later. But I knew that wasn't right either. A life without hope isn't life at all. It's decay.
So where was the hope? What was the one thing that I could hold on to? Where was the constant in this painful sea of variables? The hope was the title of this article, the words on the card that you may have received, and the ink under my skin - Jude Wins.
After my wife and I got the news about Jude's genetic condition, my dad invited me to go get coffee with him. Although I certainly didn't feel like hanging out and chatting, I've learned so much from my dad over the years and I was desperate for someone to give me even the slightest bit of hope in this dark hour.
As I sat across from my dad, he asked me a question which, at the time, seemed like a silly question. He asked me, "What would be the worst possible outcome for this situation?" I really didn't have to think hard at all. I told him the worst possible outcome would be for us to lose our little boy. Then he asked me what the best possible outcome would be. Obviously, my answer was for God to miraculously heal him and for him to be born with absolutely no defects at all. After hearing the two most obvious answers in the entire world, my dad leaned back and said something that changed everything for me. He said, " If our worst case scenario happens and we have to say goodbye to him, that means that he gets to spend eternity in Heaven living a life and existing in a place so amazing that our brains can't even comprehend. If our best case scenario happens, he'll have an incredible life story to tell people, have the opportunity to be raised by parents who love him, and be able to accomplish lots of great things. So you know, if you really think hard about it, no matter what happens, Jude Wins. Based on our faith in God and belief that Heaven is real, Jude can't lose. He only wins."
He was right. And suddenly, I knew that I had what I needed to move forward. I didn't have to spend the next few months terrified and confused. I didn't have to chose blind senseless "faith" or complete hopelessness. I could chose a path the ended with hope and victory no matter what happened.
When August 9, 2012 eventually came, our hearts were ready. We understood that no matter what happens, our God is still faithful and because of our faith in him, we would never permanently lose our little boy. That morning, Jude came out of the womb and was delivered directly into the hands of our Father up in Heaven. Although Tiffanie and I felt the undeniable and unavoidable pain of personal loss, the incredibly peaceful hope from God was even more present as we realized that Jude really did win. He was experiencing a level of victory that we can't even possibly understand.
But the lesson behind this story and the phrase "Jude Wins" doesn't end with the passing of my sweet little boy. I believe whole-heartedly that it applies to every one of us who believe in Jesus and have accepted him as our savior. Because of a merciful God who invited us to spend eternity in Heaven with Him, even in death, we find victory. In Philippians 1:21, Paul says "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Although death isn't necessarily the desired outcome in any situation, we don't have to be afraid of it as if it were some sort of hopeless end.
Below is a video of my beautiful wife sharing a little bit about how God showed her how to be thankful for His grace and faithfulness just a few months after Jude was born. Words can't express how proud I am of her.
But the phrase doesn't only apply to matters of life and death. Romans 8:28 says "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Alot of people really misquote this verse and try to make it sound like God will give us whatever we want no matter what, but that's definitely not the point here. The point is that for those of us who Love God and have accepted the call that He has placed on our lives, even the darkest outcomes can be turned around to make a positive difference as long as we keep our eyes and our faith fixed on him. The passing of my son is not at all a positive thing, but the strength, perspective, and testimony that have been developed in me as a result are definitely positive. I refuse to just cough it up as a loss. I refuse to look back at that experience and say that it was all a giant loss. Although I may have experienced loss in the process, I didn't throw in the towel. And because I didn't give up, I win - just like Jude.