Sometimes suffering obscures beauty, but because God is sovereign, there is always beauty just below the surface.
In today’s devotion, I shared about a time I experienced great beauty in the midst of terrible pain. Watching my dear friend Linda die was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. She was young, a mother of little boys and married to the love of her life, who had already experienced quite a lot of tragedy in his life. Everything in me screamed, “This is not fair!” The circumstances of her rare and aggressive cancer obscured some of the lessons I was learning at the time. I was head-down preoccupied with her illness rather than face-up aware of what God was doing.
Sometimes it takes a little time to see the beauty in our painful circumstances, but it wasn’t long before God started revealing the beauty that had been just beneath the surface the whole time. Here are just a few beautiful things about Linda’s life:
- She lived to the end with an open heart.–After Linda’s death, her husband brought me a book that helped me tremendously as I struggled to find God in the hard circumstances. The author cited a fact that made me pause and give thanks. In most cases, people who are suffering “circle the wagons.” They close their circle of family and friends and draw them near. That’s the norm, but it’s not how Linda and her husband lived. Although I didn’t meet Linda until after her diagnosis, I was welcomed into their loving circle with open arms as were many, many others. Linda and Don were so open that they became known and loved by a huge number of people during her illness. It seemed like our whole town was praying for her by the end. I watched as they taught us how to live in community even in painful times, and we could all see the blessing of their choice through the love and support they received in return.
- She lived every minute fully.–One day toward the end of her life, Linda said to me, “Amy, everyone should be told when they have six months to live. It’s a gift.” Her unique and beautiful perspective came from her determination to live every minute intentionally. Linda was famous for her parties. On her oldest son’s birthday, she went all out. The yard was filled with people, the grill sizzled and the cutest caterpillar cake ever made by a mom wiggled across the table. I watched my friend closely as her energy faded and followed her into the kitchen. “Why don’t you take a few minutes and sit down,” I suggested. “You look so tired.” She turned to me with tears in her eyes and responded, “This may be the last birthday party I get to throw. I’m not going to miss a minute.” Her love for life shone brightly and was a testimony to all around her.
- She always pointed to God’s goodness.–Linda presented me with a huge problem. I could never out encourage her! I would call thinking I was going to help cheer up her day after chemo or during side effects, and inevitably I would hang up the phone feeling blessed. She was well-known for saying to her friends, “No matter what happens to me, God is still good.” On her last Christmas, she had a special gift made for her close friends. It was a beautiful angel pendant crafted from gold, silver and pearls. The gift shouted what none of us could whisper. Linda’s life was drawing to a close, but she wanted to remind us that her eternal life was just beginning. At Christmas each year, I finger my precious pendant worn proudly on my jacket, remembering I have a joyful reunion with a special friend when it’s my turn to head to my eternal home and great reward.
If you’re suffering today, I want you to know you’re not alone and there is hope. I will pray for each prayer request if you’ll just leave it as a comment.
Also, I’m a resource junkie, so I want to offer you the names of a couple of books that ministered to me deeply as I grieved the loss of my friend. Where Is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey was the book Linda’s sweet husband shared with me. This book helped me wrestle through all the questions about God’s sovereignty and His goodness. Another friend who had suffered the loss of her baby gave me A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. It’s a very raw, real but hopeful look at grief written by a man who suffered a horrific loss. I highly recommend both of these if you’re suffering.
Thank you for visiting today, friends. My heart is full and my mind is overflowing with prayers as I finish this post. You are loved.