suffering

This has been a particularly hard piece to write. Were it directed at firm believers in Christ it might look much different and be perhaps a simpler write. Trying to understand suffering is like herding cats- it just isn’t going to happen, however, having a basic trust in God does make the learning curve less sharp.

This piece has been particularly hard to write since learning that a friend was given the news that her young son has only a few months (at best) to live before losing his battle with cancer. What was originally to be written to an anonymous audience has now taken on a much more personal feel. I have no words when it comes to easing a parents’ suffering, it is an impossible task, really, but more especially when God is an unknown to them.

snake-504536_640Had it been just you, dear reader, I would have talked about the large role of sin and the part it plays in suffering through various forms. I would have probably compared it to a drop of food coloring that falls, ebbs, and twists contaminating every particle of even the largest glass of water. Even if it is diluted to the point that you cannot see it, it is still there. I would have talked about the sin of greed and how it leaves the devastating effects of poverty, pollution, disease, and pain in it’s wake. I would have talked about the sin of lust and anger that leaves women & children raped and abused, of fear and selfishness leading to small African girls contracting AIDS because of the belief that sex with a virgin will cure you and the children here in the USA surrounded in wealth that still go to bed hungry every night. I could go on and on about our own sinful hearts, our very nature, that is the root of so much incomprehensible suffering.

Had it been just you I would have talked about how even the most perfect man, Jesus himself, suffered more than anyone else and did so out of love. That his suffering was the worst and had nothing but the greatest good come from it. That like his suffering, ours is also inevitable and sometimes disproportionately rationed; the good sometimes suffer the most.

Had it been just you, I would have pointed out that how the Bible reassures us that God uses all things to His glory. That any evil in the world can be used by Him for good. How all of those around us can be shaken awake by death to reexamine ourselves and lead better, more selfless lives. How suffering can often turn people to Him. I would have talked about all of the good that comes from these times that we just don’t see because we are too nearsighted. The focus is too sharp. I would have tried to better explain the ideas of what God allows vs. what God creates. How sometimes our sufferings (such as mental health issues, loss of loved doctor-840127_640ones, and other tragedies) are in the long run some of our greatest gifts. I would have let you know that at times it is a matter of having trust in Him and allowing Him to do what he has planned because even though it hurts it will be so much better, so much greater than we could ever have imagined. I would have told you about my own battles with anxiety and depression and how they have helped me to be a more selfless, empathetic person and to have helped people in a way only those who have walked those dark depths can. How my suffering was in essence a gift for many.

But it isn’t just you who might be reading this and for some, depression doesn’t mean crap. I’m still here, after all, while your son/daughter/husband/wife/loved one isn’t. You might be reading this after years of watching someone you love suffer so deeply you can’t imagine how they made it this far or how you can possibly remember all the good times after sitting beside him/her through all of the bad. Watching him/her slowly stolen from you before your very eyes until only a shell was left. You might be reading this with a “@!*# God!” on the tip of your tongue so steeped in hurt and anger. And just so you know- that’s normal. He can take it. He gets it.

So instead, for K, and all of you out there like her, I have this to say:

 

I am so very sorry for what you are going through. I cannot begin to imagine what the last few years, last few days, or even today has been like. I cannot imagine what it is to see your last hope of healing being taken away from you with just a few words. Your struggle and the struggle of your son has touched so many lives because we see in it our own mortality. We see our own helplessness and fragility. We are reflected back in your faces. We see it and though we fear, we live better because of it. I know that this will not help you today or even tomorrow, but I hope that someday these words might bring you some comfort. Not because the come from me. Not because they are particularly well written. But because through His will I might show you a glimpse of His love in all of it.

Right now I imagine that beyond the sadness and utter grief there is anger. If it were my family I imagine it would be hard not to be wrapped in it. Anger that it was happening to me. Anger for anyone who tried to give kind words as if they could even fathom what I was going through while they went happily about, family intact. Anger that anyone would even suggest such things as this could contain love or God or anything of the like. If you are angry please know I do not want to take it from you. You are entitled to it. Leave this right now if you have to, but come back to it when you are ready.

I know that we don’t share the same beliefs and I won’t insult you by telling you that God will use this for good, though I sincerely believe it. It may be grandiose- future cures developed because of the awareness you have raised, who knows? Instead, I want to assure you that his was not a life lived in vain. I say this with certainty. I promise you that no one who knows you and your family will ever be the same. Ever. Children from his classroom to all the way across the country will remember his smile, his bravery, his sense of humor. They will love life a little more, even if they don’t now realize it, knowing that it isn’t a right to grow old. His teachers, his nurses and doctors, photographers, and even strangers will all remember his courageous story & quick smile, and with tears of their own and a smile go about their days with more love, tenderness and caring because they know now more than ever that everyone is fighting a battle. And if that isn’t enough, on a more personal note, your story has made me a better mother. cherub-968811_640I do not say that lightly. I cannot begin to tell you all the times your family has crossed my mind and filled my heart. Because of your story I am a mother who takes her kids for granted less often; that loves more and yells less. That remembers that my time with them is finite. That there are worse things than temper tantrums and spilled milk. Because of your story I left my job and started my life anew. Because of your story I now work a job I love with more time for my kids. Your story has given me joy for the simple, everyday, mundane things. Your story shows me that these are the things that matter. I don’t kick my daughter out of my bed at night when she crawls in. Instead I snuggle her and remember that each time it might be our last, whether God takes or she simply grows “too big” for such snuggles, and I breathe deep the smell of her and I try to memorize it.

I know that you, your husband, and your sons are hurting. I cannot imagine the teeter-totter like fight between staving off sorrow and fighting for joy in these last months. I imagine that it is exhausting and painful, physically painful, and that at times you feel nothing but spent and empty, void of anything. I imagine, though I hope that I am wrong, that there are times you question yourself. That you find ways to blame yourself for what is happening. We mothers are masters at this type of self deprecation and doubt. If you are, let me tell you right now to stop. To know that there is nothing that could have been done differently, noticed sooner, started quicker that would have prevented any of this. Know that you are the right amount of lov, comfort, discipline, and reassurance that your boys need. Know that you are great. That you have loved him more than anyone and that he knows it. Know that no matter how many pokes he endured he will not be thinking of that whenever his time comes, but of you. Of loving you and the love you poured forth on him. I want you to know this incase you don’t get the chance to hear him say it. All he needs is you beside him. That is enough. You are enough. God made you perfectly for this part, to be with him and love him because he knew that you were exactly what he would need to get him through.

woman-1043030_640I imagine that there are times, too many to count, that it feels like it cannot get any worse, that you cannot endure anymore, but it does and you do. Know that though God may not grant a cure, though I and hundreds of others pray daily for it, he will bring a reprieve. No matter what happens your son will be healed and free of pain, you just might not get to see it in this world. God’s grace will touch the rest of you too, and the pain will eventually ease. It may be years and you will never forget him, but the sorrow will dull and the bad days will fade as the good ones shine more brightly in your heart and head. And though it’s hard to see it right now, know that God is so amazing in his infinite wisdom. That though our sin brought about sorrow into this world, God has made it but a tool. Though sorrow and pain eat away at us, though it creates a pit of despair that feels like it decimates us, it instead digs a pit in us that allows us to love more deeply. That gaping hole is a crater that allows more love to fill us. Because of this you will love and feel loved more deeply, though it may take time to get there. You will be a better wife and a better friend. You will be the one able to console those that so many of cannot because you’ve been there and survived.

I know that doesn’t mean much right now, so I leave you with this: God can handle your doubt, your anger, your insults, your tears. I beg you to give them to Him. Let him hear you. Tell him about your hurt. Cry out to Him. Ask Him to heal it, to dull it. Just ask. It may feel odd or silly, but it really is the best advice I can give you. He will hear you and if you let Him, he will answer.