Grace [be] to you and peace from God our Father, and [from] the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
And whether we be afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation.
And our hope of you [is] stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall ye be] also of the consolation.
-2 Corinthians 1: 2-7
I love this passage. I have applied this passage to my life, knowing that the journey i have walked is for a purpose greater than myself. It is to take the messages and ways the Lord has reached into my life and use them for others who are in similar situations. God allows us to share suffering, to share the comfort he has given us in these tribulations and to walk together in hope.
Over the weekend i had the distinct privilege in meeting an artist that is creative, educated and very articulate. As we spoke it was quite clear that the events of this year have impacted her forever. She had been caregiver to her father, a physician, who was dying of cancer. His wrestling with cancer ended in February. Ten months later the imprint of grief is still very visible. She will tell you that her grief was most intense when he was alive and she was watching the ravaging effects of disease transform her strong father into something much less than strong. I remember those days, watching my own parents transform from strong and capable to shadows of themselves, disease and aging taking from them the strength and independence they had always known. I remember well those days of caring for parents, only to return home feeling a deep and profound sense of grief over the losses of small things. And I remember the nights filled with intense prayer, asking and begging God to halt the effects of arthritus, hearing loss, heart disease. As if it were possible to assuage the waves of grief by waving a magic wand, and erasing the physical decline, i hoped for mighty and profound miracles. I hoped i would have my parents much longer on this earth than God allowed.
It was in that crucible of caretaker that I found deep and profound comfort from God. His word leaped from the pages, speaking deep to my wounded heart, offering hope, offering comfort, offering his very real presence to walk with me through these times. Once i tasted his comfort, his wisdom, his grace i knew nothing else would substitute. And i learned that his comfort would see me through even if the aging and disease would not reverse. And if i looked for his hand, his gentle guidance through those rough emotionally challenging storms i would find it. And i did.
And the first time i had an opportunity to speak with someone else going through this same process there was an immediate connection to their grief, their struggle, their sorrows. I remember someone sharing this verse in 2 Corinthians, and reminding me that i now have a platform to speak to others… a voice that speaks from fact. That same person told me the message is not as real until you have lived it, wrestled with God over it, struggled to find that place of peace and comfort in a difficult transition, and accepted the wisdom God alone can give.
So Saturday as i listened to this artist speak i was reminded again of the privilege to live for Jesus, the opportunity to share his love and grace with her, and the profound resonance of sharing the struggles with disease, aging parents, grief and loss. She is a strong woman, searching and filling her faith tank with almost anything but Jesus. So the opportunity is there for God to move in her heart. What was interesting is the connection we made to each other… there was a hunger to assuage that grief. There was a frustration with the world’s perception of how grief is dealt with, and that formula expectation that we get over it and get on with life. We seldom allow one another to talk, to work through these things in our lives. But we need to be there for them. We need to allow the conversation about dying, disease, grief and loss to be voiced.
I know that is easier said than done. People who we have loved, and who have been a pillar of strength in our lives make a deep and powerful impact when they leave us for the bright and blessed place called heaven. The void left in their departure never is filled, and the loneliness in those places of our soul can only be comforted by God. That can take a life time to overcome, and no one should tell us how long we should grieve, or what we should think. Grief is personal, very personal. Grief assuages for seasons, then it comes rumbling back in an instant, at the smell of something familiar, or the sight of something that jogs a memory. It is only in loosing someone precious and dear that we learn an aspect of Jesus’s “fellowship of suffering”. It is something completely out of our control, something that can break us, shake our normal lives, and leave us bitter if we do not allow the pain to build in us a strong dependence on Jesus.
My new friend is not certain about Jesus. She seems to be running from the faith of her father, and exploring other religions. It is my prayer that our conversation will spark in her a desire to search again the faith of her father, and discover the comforting love and grace of Jesus.