If you do this, this entering into suffering with others, you might just glimpse a joy unspeakable. This has been my experience. There is so much suffering on this earth. I ask God to help me see those who walk through suffering and love them well.
He has allowed me to enter into stories of suffering and I see what a gift this can be, not just for them but for me. I come away from these interactions changed.
I go to encourage, and walk away encouraged.
Let me tell you about my friend Ali:
A young mom, we met at a conference for cancer survivors, the two youngest in the room.
Our eyes meet and she comes straight to the empty seat next to me, which was my hope. She is all beauty and bright-eyed. Her sense of style is effortless and spot on, her hair regrowing is a pixie cut perfect for her face shape, and her smile the best of accessories.
Our hearts connect, she invites me to her home and introduces me to her man and her two littles with cherub faces. Dare I say some of the cutest I’ve seen?
We eat greens and drink kombucha and talk all things cancer and life. We just get each other, our stories very familiar. That was in the spring.
Late summer her story takes a turn. We meet for coffee she directs my hand to her elegant neck and it looks like I am taking her pulse. It is quite a moment, as I feel her life pulse and what could cause death at the same time. It is cancer in a lymph node, the placement in her neck places her as an automatic stage four.
I write these words and tears fall for my beautiful friend.
But, here is what I see and want the world to see, too.
Her beauty overcomes and shines through and I see peace and joy and she proclaims to me with eyes bright:
“I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus”
I see love. I see Him reflected so clearly in those big beautiful brown eyes.
She is the epitome of grace, courage, hope, trust, joy and all things lovely. Despite an automatic stage 4, she shines.
Several days later her text to me:
“I spoke with my Doctor”
“She said median survival for my stage 4 cancer is 2 years.”
“I plan on much longer than that”
She meets with doctors and loved ones and forms a plan, walking in trust that the God she loves holds and directs her path.
She is choosing a path less traveled, one that will bring toxicity and hopeful healing and she walks bravely forward right into it. This road leads to Houston, months away from her littles, (3 years old and 5 years old) and all that is familiar. This is the road that we pray will provide her with the “much longer than that.”
In the meantime, God is providing all that she needs. She lives this and proclaims it.
She invites me to Houston and I go, and spend 4 precious and some of my most favorite of days there. I write a bit about that trip here, and share a beautiful breakfast recipe that my Ali lovingly made for me while I was there. This early morning act of service for me is just one tangible example of how entering into someones suffering brings blessing beyond. The recipe is amazing, but the memory of being served by her in the midst of her hardship, the morning of her chemo treatment, is the most precious of memories. Such a sweet gift, one of so many that Ali has given me by just being who she is.
Enter into others suffering. Gifts will abound, you will give, and will be astonished at all that will be given back to you.
Update: Ali is back from Houston and reunited with her littles and husband. She will have ongoing treatment here and periodic trips back to Houston. If you are a praying person, will you add her to your list?
Ali is also an accomplished artist, and the above piece is her work.