Suffering comes in all shapes and forms. When we were in the middle of my husband’s battle with brain cancer. It was survival mode. We were doing all the physical things we could to fight this disease, which involved a lot of travel for the two of us. I had to rely on the Lord to be there for our children when we were not and trust them to lean on each other. We stayed in constant communication the times we had to be gone and were together as much as possible, already realizing time is precious. Our children were older teens and a young twenty so this helped. Still, I couldn’t focus on the state of my own heart because I was so focused on the state of theirs. How were they managing? How were their hearts? How was this affecting their faith? In the beginning our focus was on staying positive and trying to trust. As the disease progressed and Alan started showing dementia type symptoms I felt the weight even more of being the one parent to see them through this. Suffering was taking place whether we liked it or not!
Anyone who is a parent knows that you would rather experience suffering yourself than to watch your children walk through it. Yet, none of us is immune to suffering.
Phil. 1:29 says,
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Also, in 1 Peter 5:10,
“And the God of grace, who called you to his eternal glory, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
When Alan went to Heaven, the road stretched out before us felt like it would be nothing, but suffering! But God went before us. He had taught us to look for His presence along the way. We found him in the hospital corridors, the flights back and forth to Chicago for treatment and in his day to day provision. Alan’s transition to Heaven literally shifted our perspective. We began to see how the Lord had honored him, to give him his reward early. This didn’t take away the grief and suffering but it made it bearable. We talked a lot! We checked in on each other if one of us retreated too long, but gave space to be silent when needed. We prayed continually, alone, in pairs and as a family. I needed my kids to know that they didn’t need to be strong for me It was not their job to take care of me, but Gods. It was okay to hurt together. We could confess our doubts and fear of the future to each other and then come together to submit those things to the Father. We learned to wash each other in the Word, and to come up under each other on the days that were harder for one of us than the others.
I used to believe that if I loved God and followed him faithfully I wouldn’t suffer. Now I know that suffering is inevitable but if I let Him, God will use it for my good. He will use it to press me into His presence even more so that I when I go out, I carry his fragrance.
It’s a bit like, when I scoop my granddaughter Aria up, at the end of a day. I know that she will smell like her Daddy, because she has been tucked up safe and secure on her father’s chest. She now carries his aroma.
We must remind each other that suffering is a part of life and God is faithful “in the midst of it.” Alan was so good at hiding himself in Jesus. That, and his love for the Word of God is part of the legacy our children will carry with them.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s confidence in God was not dependent on whether He would deliver them from the flames of the furnace (what they wanted). They trusted that He was good regardless.
“But, thanks be to God, He has made us his captives to lead us in triumphant procession. Now he uses us to spread the fragrance of Christ. “