I’ve been feeling a bit like Job lately. I don’t consider myself perfect and upright like he has been described to be and I have not lost all that he lost, but I do feel attacked by Satan. It was only a few years ago that my life was really good. Life was almost perfect and I felt very blessed. I had never been hit with anything ‘too big’ or ‘too hard’ to bear. But these last two and a half years have brought me to my knees. After finally feeling like I was learning how to live again after losing my brother and dealing with all the devastation that follows in the wake of suicide, I was diagnosed with cancer. Then midway through my chemotherapy treatments, I suffered life-threatening complication after complication and was in and out of the hospital for almost a month. I came home from the last hospital stay feeling weak and exhausted and relentlessly attacked. So I feel a bit like Job. I feel like satan is trying desperately to get me to curse God and blame Him for all the bad, all the hard that has been happening in my life. he (lowercase intended) wants me to stop praising my God and turn away from Him. But, only by God’s love, grace and strength, like Job, I can not, and will not place the blame on Jesus. I will not stop dancing through my storm. I will not stop singing my broken hallelujah in worship and praise to my God.
Like Job I have grieved and I have asked “why”. Every time I was just starting to stand back up, something else would come and knock me down. Life feels precarious and uncertain and I feel I’ve been through enough. But through all of this I have realized, like Job, that I love Jesus because of who He is and not because of the blessings He has given me. Like Job, I have learned that Jesus and I do not have an “if-then” relationship. satan cannot steal my love away from a Father who gave His Son to die and pay the price for my sins so I could spend forever with Him.
But there has been one glaring difference between Job and myself. I have never felt alone. I’m not sure why I’ve never felt God’s absence, but I am grateful. I knew I was in His presence because I could feel His peace, I could feel Someone holding my hand. For some reason I never doubted His love. And maybe it’s because I can look back to the gift of the cross. Job had to face this suffering without experiencing the sacrifice of Christ and without the support of friends. I have felt the arms of Jesus around me in my spouse, my family, and my friends. Unlike Job, I have had no one dragging me down or accusing me. No one trying to take my eyes of off Jesus. I have never felt isolated or abandoned. On the contrary, I have had people supporting me at every turn, bringing meals, sending cards, leaving gifts, donating money, watching our children, cleaning my refrigerator, washing our laundry, driving me to treatments, praying for me everyday… (insert deep breath here) bending over backwards to help me and my family in every way imaginable. Giving generously of themselves over and over. They have truly made having cancer easy. From the first night I was diagnosed, I have never felt alone. And this has made all of the difference.
They have become part of my story.
I heard a song one day not long after my diagnosis by Kari Jobe entitled, “I am not alone“. It became my theme song through my cancer treatment. (Click here if you want to see the cutest version of this song ever.) I knew I could not endure the road ahead without Jesus. But I had no idea the number of warriors that He would send to help me with my fight, to hold me up, and to catch me when I was falling. They have surrounded me, inspired me, and encouraged me. My husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my church family, my husband’s students and coworkers, and even an unexpected community of support from people I have never met on Instagram; they have become part of my story, and helped me in carrying my burdens. They have been the tangible hands and feet of Jesus and I have been overwhelmed, amazed, and astounded by all of the support and all of the love. I feel unworthy and undeserving but so incredibly blessed. He blesses even when we don’t deserve. His grace covers all of my shortcomings. And I have learned that it isn’t about me. It is about what God is doing for me and what I pray He will do through me.
Do you feel a bit like Job? Do you have relationship that is fractured? Do you wonder where your next meal is coming from? Has your heart been broken by the death of someone you loved? Are you fighting a battle of physical or emotional healing? I know there is so much suffering in this world, so many people hurting. I don’t want you to ever feel you are alone.
Because You. Are. Not. Alone.
If people are failing you, then look to Christ alone for your strength and pray that He provides you with a community of love and support.
Before going through these hard times, I had never realized the importance of finding a spouse who truly meant ‘through the good times and bad’ and ’till death do us part’ when saying ‘I do’. I had never realized how important it was to surround myself with a community of people who find their strength and confidence in Jesus, who are prayer warriors, and who allow themselves to be used by Jesus.
And if you can’t relate to feeling like Job, then I encourage you to open your eyes to someone who is, and find a way to help support them. Let God use you and shine through you to bless another who is hurting. Don’t allow them to be alone. There is one thing I am certain of; we were not made to walk alone. We were made to be a part of someone else’s story.
I know this can be uncomfortable. To be a part of someone else’s story means to accompany them in and through their pain. To be a part of their suffering. To allow their tears. It means to encourage them to talk about the ‘elephant in the room’, and share their anger and disappointment with God. Our tendency as humans raised in this day in age is to run from anything that makes us uncomfortable, especially pain. We are raised instead to pursue happiness and do only what makes us feels good. Instead of going through the pain, to find some way around it. To try and stop one’s tears instead of allowing them. We are groomed to find a quick fix and to rush through healing. And why? For what reason? Because it makes us uncomfortable. What I am asking you to do today goes against everything the voices in this world are telling you. But what if it is in becoming a part of another’s story of suffering, that you find and experience true joy? What if it is you who ultimately becomes blessed and is able to find the true meaning of praise?
Another reason why I believe people often choose not to involves themselves in another’s story is because so many people think that they are not worthy of being used by God, that they have no gifts. But that is a lie that Satan so desperately wants us to believe. We have been given gifts, talents and strengths, and God uses these in a variety of ways. We were made unique, to be used by Him in a special way. And if you are one who believes that you have nothing to give, then I would urge you to look at the story of the Widow of Zeraphath and the boy who gave his five loaves of bread and two small fish. God has a way of turning nothing into something, little into enough. When we become a part of another’s story, He pushes us and stretches us into more than we ever thought we could be. And through it, we become changed.
You, my friend, are so very special. Use what you have to bless another. Let’s not journey through this life alone. Become a part of another person’s story.
I put together a list of things that I have found helpful during my difficult times. I am including this today so that maybe it will assist you in helping another.
- Give them a book: Ann Voskamps’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Lamont’s Why?: Trusting God When You Don’t Understand,
Philip Yancey’s book, Disappointment With God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud, Micheal Card’s A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament (Quiet Times for the Heart), and/or L. B. Cowman’s daily devotional Streams in the Desert.
- Bring a meal or gift cards to restaurants. Enlist the help of others by using the website takethemameal.com.
- Spend time in visiting them if they are feeling up to it (it is often a good idea to check with family and close friends to see if this would be helpful at the time). Sometimes people lack energy or need a bit of time and space to process the loss or difficulty.)
- Hire a house cleaning service or offer to help them with chores yourself.
- Donate money or gift cards to help relieve some of the stress and anxiety of medical bills or loss of wages.
- Leave little gifts of candles and lotions, seeds, plants, and flowers, or gifts for the children.
- Send cards, emails or texts to let them know they are thought about and being prayed for.
- Pray for them, pray with them.
- Help them write thank you cards.
- Pamper them with a massage or a pedicure.
- Try and be attentive in looking for special ways in which they feel cared for and loved.
- Offer to drive them to appointments or baby sit children.
- Make them a prayer quilt.
One piece of advice when providing help; instead of asking if they need help, ask them what you can do. Please don’t give them a chance to say no. For example, instead of asking, “Can I bring you a meal?” ask instead, “What evening would it be most helpful for me to bring you a meal?” Most people will tell you they don’t need help when you ask because they don’t want to impose. Part of giving, is making that person feel that you are honored and privileged in helping them.
I am not alone. And neither are you. If you haven’t been blessed with pain, blessed with suffering, blessed with a reason to run to Jesus, than find someone who has. Become a part of their story. Because it’s in the ‘too hard’ and ‘too big’ where we find Jesus. It’s in our tears where we learn that we cannot walk this path alone. It is only in suffering that we truly understand and find true joy. And it is only in finding true joy that, in awe and wonder, we are able to praise our Jesus.