I was using an unexpected burst of energy to shuffle things around in my garage, attempting to organize the means of the DIY adventures that call to me on my stronger days. I must have been deep in thought, because the abrupt swinging open of the thick wooden door to the house startled me. A tear-stained face appeared, begging companionship. “Can I please talk to you?” “Of course,” I replied, and took a seat on the striped padding of our wooden bench. I patted the seat beside me, and there was an eruption of sobs.
“I just really, really don’t want you to be sick. I don’t like it, and I would rather die so that you can live a happy life.”
I was caught off guard by the heaviness of the situation, and as the lament continued I silently prayed for the right words to comfort this tortured soul. How do you answer the questions for which there are no answers? I was reminded of my notebook full of gratitude; all the beautiful and miraculous that is found woven through the mundane ache of every day.
When the slew of bemoaning faded into hiccuping sobs, I spoke. “Oh sweetheart, I /am/ living a happy life. I love getting to be here and be a wife and a mom and a friend, and my sickness will never take that away for me.”
“But why doesn’t God heal you. He can! Why doesn’t he want that?”
Admittedly it is a question I have also asked from time to time, but I gave the answer that has been whispered to me on repeat as I have studied similar stories of suffering in the scriptures. What if my suffering is the way into a greater love for God and his people? I have found that the process of walking with him through these deep valleys is teaching me how to better love and care for others. Maybe if I was not sick I would not know how to do that.
Not that I have readily accepted the hardships in my life. Not by a long shot. I have had my own sob sessions, wrestling long and hard with God, desperately searching scripture and asking really hard questions. I have waded through grief deeper than I thought I could survive.
The truths I have come to know, and that I shared on that dusty bench in my garage is that whatever trial I am asked to walk through, God will give me the strength to take each step through it. And if a terminal illness is what presses me nearer to his heart and grows my own to love others in a way that I could not have imagined on my own, then that is what is good for me, as well as for those my life intersects with.
Who knows, God may still heal me, but only if healing pushes me further into him. Only if healing accomplishes eternally what terminal illness cannot. These days my prayers are less for the removal of my illness and more for a greater number of days to love God and love people. I continue to press forward and fight toward that end; especially for my husband and my little people.
In the cold quiet of our garage that night, I explained that my present suffering is only going to increase, not ending until my death. Every day I am pressed harder into the story of the gospel, which allows me to fully trust the God who has numbered my days (Job 14:5), and to embrace the future of hope he has planned for me (Jeremiah 29:11). As I thank him for each new day, I search with intention for ways to leave a legacy for my children that will urge them to press into their Father God in their pain; to trust him with their hurt, and believe in him for their future.
He will meet us there.
Sola Gratia~ by grace alone.