It’s been a long time since I’ve raised a toast to my cancer season and uttered the words, “Bless you, Cancer.” I’m glad I haven’t forgotten how to do so. There’s been a lengthy span of less thankfulness and more confusion in recent days. Not so this past weekend. On Sunday, I was able to whisper my blessing while sitting in the chapel at Rogers & Breece Funeral Home.
Vic passed away. He was my cancer buddy, sitting next to me during my first round of chemotherapy and many times following. He, too, was a warrior, fighting valiantly to lengthen his earthly tenure. God knew I needed him that first day; God also knew that he would need me in the days to come. Not just me, but my husband as well – the preacher man and friend who also attended Vic’s funeral but who would find his place behind the pulpit, not beside me in a pew. Billy was the chosen man to eulogize the life and witness of our friend, Vic, a role he never expected to play yet one he graciously accepted.
If cancer had never been my portion, then I am not certain who would have been chosen to tenderly and kindly lead Vic’s family and friends along this tremendous road of grief. Without our cancer connection, I don’t know who would have taken the time to pray with Vic . . . who would have made for him the connection between the earthly and the eternal. Sure, God can do it all on his own, but because of his tender mercy and loving trust, he willingly allows us the opportunity of kingdom influence. I feel so honored to be trusted with so much; I know my husband feels the same. And here is what I want you to know:
God is still in the business of making your suffering season count. Some days it feels rather weighty, this carrying of past or maybe current grief. Sometimes it feels forgotten, influence hidden away in the crevices of lessons learned in history. Sometimes in our movement away from personal pain our hearts can grow bitter about it all, wondering about the reasons we were allowed its portion in the first place. But every now and again, suffering makes sense. Suffering has a reason. Suffering (on the backside) feels suited to our flesh, and we are able to bless it rather than curse it.
I am grateful for those times when I understand and fully realize that the pain I’ve endured is a pain that has extended the borders of God’s kingdom. That the stretch of my flesh has also stretched his to reach long and wide and high and deep and wrap up in love the lost sheep of his earthly pasture. That when I reach outward to others through my pain, God reaches downward to others through his love, and therein the sky splits revealing the bright light of heaven that guides us safely home.
Maybe today you’re wondering if your pain matters . . . if, in fact, there is an eternal component to it all. That if somewhere down the road or somewhere right around the corner it might matter for more than just the personal perspective it’s wrought in you. That maybe God won’t leave it as part of your history but, instead, reveal it as part of his kingdom ministry. If that is where you’re at today, then here is what I want you to know:
God is still in the business of making your suffering season count. Nothing is wasted in the economy of God. He’ll keep using your pain, friend, because he understands the road of suffering and the great price you’ve paid to walk it through faithfully. He now intends to bless it most fruitfully—to sow and grow something in others with the seeds of your surrender. You may not see it now, but you can trust that God has seen it all.
And every now and again, you’ll catch a glimpse of the glory. Hang on for the glimpses. As they arrive, your heart will be strengthened for the steps ahead. As always . . .
Peace for the journey,