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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Joy in the Midst of Suffering and Struggles

 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."


Joy in the Midst of Suffering and Struggles



"The process of learning to respond with joy during times of trials in life must begin with a conscious awareness that God is at work in our lives and that He has a tangible purpose for why we may be experiencing these trials. Simply put, Biblical joy is CHOOSING to respond to external circumstances with inner contentment and satisfaction, because we KNOW that God will use these experiences to accomplish His work in and through our lives." Christianity.com (emphasis mine)

Over the years since Wayne's terminal diagnosis with glioblastoma brain cancer (GBM), I have first had experienced these verses and that description of joy. There is no human explanation for how one can proceed through cancer treatments with joy or how someone can process through any difficult suffering. When followers of Jesus allow the joy of Jesus to flow from them in the midst of their trial, it is a chance to shine brightly for the world. It is what sets us a part from the world. They see something different in us and they want what we have. 

In these difficult moments in life, we must learn to lean hard into Jesus and allow Him to minister to us. As my friend Lisa told me today, "Sometimes we get so anxious that we don't allow ourselves to sit with Him and allow His presence to sooth us." I know that I have been guilty of feeling overwhelmed and I start googling what may be wrong or solutions that I can tangibly touch. When I finally stop wrestling and I just stop and rest in Him, that peace that passes all understanding envelopes me in a way that you can't even humanly explain. 

The past year has been a difficult year and I thought that it was time that we shared some of what has been going on. Something that God has revealed to me over the last few years is this: if we allow God to work in our lives through our suffering and trials, God is able to then later use us to encourage and help others experiencing the same type of struggles. I have seen it countless times in regard to women whose husbands get diagnosed with brain cancer. God has opened doors I could have never foreseen to allow me to minister in different ways because of the suffering we experienced with Wayne's cancer. Not only has God allowed us to comfort these women, but other people that have been diagnosed with cancer and their family members. When you have done chemo and radiation, you can relate and understand what they are experiencing. We should be compassionate and loving to everyone suffering, but when it is something personal and close to home, it enables you to comfort to a deeper level. I may be able to love on someone who has lost a child to miscarriage, but I have not experienced that loss. Someone who has experienced that kind of loss is able to minister to them in a deeper way.

As I just mentioned, this past year has been difficult. We have been walking through mental health issues with our son and trying to navigate all the different things we needed to learn. Unfortunately, I now can comfort those who have walked or are walking this difficult road with their children. I could write for hours things that we have experienced and all that we have done to try to help our son to get the help that he needs. Wayne and I have agonized over decisions, prayed for hours, spent hours in counseling sessions, hours in doctor's offices, and hours in waiting rooms at hospitals to get him help. A myriad of emotions have bombarded us this past year...guilt, sadness, anger, fear, etc. We have worked hard to protect our son from himself and to get him extra services to assist him. He has been on many different medications to try to help stabilize him and we have guided him through the steps that his psychiatrist and counselor have given him to try to stay present. It is hard to see your loved one slowly slip away from reality. I think it must be something close to watching a loved one experience Alzheimers. It heart wrenching to see that smile disappear from their face and see them so lost they don't even see it themselves. 

Unfortunately, after months and months of trying everything we could to help our son, he is now going to go live in a residential setting. The doctors have concluded that he is not only a danger to himself, but also a danger to others. The recent guilt that I have felt is enormous. Could we have done more? I'm a failure as a mother. What are people going to think about us? Our family trips and photos will never look the same. All of these types of thoughts have assaulted my mind. I have had to surrender them time and time again to God. I even questioned why God would have even asked us to adopt him if God knew this was the end result. What good could come out of this? And this is where God showed up big time in the last few months to show Himself to be so real, so personal, and so loving!

First, God showed me that in China, he would not have had the ability to get the help and services he is able to get here. Not only that, we were able to teach him about Jesus while his mind still was stable. Only God knows if he made a decision to follow Jesus, but we can rest in the fact that we did as we were asked of God...to be faithful in sharing Jesus with our son.

Second, on our recent family trip to Gulf Shores, I felt it was important to get family photos. We have lots of photos, but I really felt that we needed to get new pictures done. Now that our son is in a residential home, I don't know if we will get that chance again. God was so good to allow us the chance to capture family memories on that trip.

Furthermore, after a traumatic evening at home that resulted in another trip to the hospital, I was feeling very discouraged and down. The next day was Sunday and we went to church as our son sat in another mental hospital. After service, someone came up to me and handed me a card from an anonymous person. Inside the card was some money with a note on it. Although the money was appreciated, it was the card that God used to minister to me. The note stated, "I don't have kids but I really admire and respect what you are doing. God loves you. He told me." Through that simple note that some faithful follow of Jesus obeyed God to write, God revealed that He sees what is going on, He is there, and He is present with me. This whole event reminded me of the importance of following the prompting of the Holy Spirit when He asks you to do something. What may seem small and insignificant to you, may be huge to the person God is asking you to reach out to.

Fourth, in the midst of wondering why God would ask us to adopt our son knowing what was going to happen, God reminded me that He has a bigger plan than even our son. Since adopting the boys, we have come to realize that this step of obedience has opened doors with international people that we may never have had without our sons. Wayne's English partner from China was blown away that we would travel to China and adopt a child with special needs. This enabled us to have amazing conversations with him and his wife, which ultimately, has lead to us being able to study the Bible with them. 

Finally, I recently experienced another God ordained event. The first year the boys were home from China, we opened our doors at Thanksgiving to host some international students. We had four graduate students from India over to our house. It was so much fun to experience an American holiday with six people who had never celebrated this holiday. We all found each other on Facebook, and that was the end of it. Occasionally, I will see pictures and posts from them, but we never saw them again. A few weeks ago, I received a message on Facebook from one of the women. She was reaching out because she saw how God had moved in our lives and answered prayers. She wasn't sure why she was reaching out, but she felt like she needed someone to pray for her. Because of the boys adoption, which further opened our eyes to reaching out to international people around us, we were able to build this relationship with this young lady. This resulted in her reaching out during a very difficult time in her life. God has given me the opportunity to pray with her over zoom, to mail her a Bible filled with some of my favorite verses, and to follow up and just show the love of Jesus to her. I don't say this to pat anyone on the back, but to encourage you to be faithful to obey Jesus...even when it gets hard. 

God used these different events and experiences to show me that His thoughts and His ways are higher than my thoughts and my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Although I may never understand this side of heaven why God allowed Wayne to get brain cancer or why God would ask us to adopt children, one whom would end up not living at home with us, I can trust that He has a better and more perfect plan than I could ever comprehend. I can rest in Him and know that He is good, despite that terrible situation around me. Sometimes it feels like the waves of this life keep hitting me one after another, and yet my loving Savior is right there holding me in the midst of the storm. 



6 comments:

  1. Beautiful! Thank you for reminding me that God is faithful even in the hard times. And also reminding me that though we like to put our best foot forward, it is often when we are most vulnerable and honest about our challenges that God is able to use us the most. Thank you for being real and honest even when it’s hard. Love to you all!

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  2. Mental illness is so hard. People can't see it, so they judge. Eyes on Jesus.

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  3. Your transparency is beautiful and such a testimony to love and faithfulness as a whole family to the power of Jesus to transform lives. Love to you all! ❤️

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  4. Thank you for sharing and allowing GOD to use you! This touched my soul. 💜

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  5. Thank you for sharing and being such a wonderful witness to Jesus. I'm truly moved by your compassion and love. I pray that we will always be able to do what God asks even in the midst of trials and suffering. Sending lots of love and prayers to you dear friend!💕

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