My story of suffering may help others.
“It is in this time of surcease that I find it both good and possible to look back over the past two years of my experience with cancer and, thereby, with my approaching death. Perhaps my story will give shape and meaning to the stories of so many people…” – Letters from the Land of Cancer, Wangerin, 11
It’s crazy to think that one man’s suffering can be another man’s hope. It may seem farfetched but it’s true nonetheless. My story is one of suffering, that’s a fact, but my story has turned into something much more. It has turned to a story of hope. Sure, people are encouraged to hear that I am in remission but I think they receive encouragement and find hope for other reasons as well.
After we found out about the cancer, Sarah and I had a conversation where we both desired to be open and transparent with the people around us. We knew this would be a battle we could not face on our own and welcomed the company. What we did not realize at the time was that people would flock around us with genuine love and compassion. People sat with us for hours, prayed over us, took care of our dog, bought us a much needed set of tires for our car, brought us meals for three months, paid medical bills, worked extra hours in our stead and the list goes on. As we talked with people, we realized that these “good Samaritans” were coming to our side because we invited them and created room in our lives for them. We opened our lives, both the good and bad, and welcomed people to be present with us. It still sounds crazy to me but people have actually thank us for opening our lives to them and allowing them to suffer with us. What a crazy thought- when we suffered, others joined us in our suffering and felt blessed. This is one of the mysteries of the Church. We are one Body, who function best together, even under the burden of heavy pain.
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part…This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NLT)
Part of being the family of God, part of being community, is to suffer well together. Thank you Church for suffering well with me. May there be continued encouragement through the beauty of community.
Secondly, as we have been open and vulnerable with people, they have felt encouraged to see a fellow believer suffer and suffer in a way that was frayed around the edges. Part of this came as I was honest with my questions, doubts, anger and even depression. I didn’t wake up every morning with a smile on my face and a kick in my step. My heart overflowed with confusion, lies and fear of the continued pain. I continued to believe in God’s goodness and his sovereign hand but failed to see it fully in my story. The questions kept coming back, “why is this happening me? What are you doing God?” I realized very quickly that God was not afraid of my questions, fears or doubts. He welcomed them as a Father welcomes a battered son, not with rebuke, but with compassion.
How then can my pain bring hope to others? Because Christ is ever present in all our pain and sufferings:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:3-6 (ESV)
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” – Isaiah 53:4