Tag Archives: suffering

Comfort & the Kindness of Strangers

I begin this post with a heartfelt apology. To those who followed my blog for years and who were left wondering what happened to me after my cancer diagnosis, I sincerely apologize that I’ve not been more forthcoming on this site. While I shared some of my story on Facebook, I felt compelled to focus primarily on treatment and recovery, and to carry my brokenness–of which there was much–to the Cross. I’m sorry if the last 2+ years of blogging silence caused confusion to others as I embarked on this very personal journey.

Plenty of people openly share when they face trials, challenges, sickness, devastation and loss. I’ve even been one of them, at least prior to the cancer episode when I felt the Spirit whisper to me this time will be different. For better or for worse, I would not experience this round of suffering in the public eye as I had in the past.  If you’re familiar with this blog site, you know of my recovery from PTSD related to my home break-in, my struggles and ultimate healing from a brain injury following my car accident, the toll taken on my heart during the Waldo Canyon Fire, my challenges as a single mom. You shared in my despairing journey with my dear mother through her cancer battle. But my own medical story would be written in private as Cancer became an intense introduction to a deeper intimacy with my Creator than I’ve ever known.

When persons I expected to walk closely with me through the valley instead walked away, the pain was too crushing to write about. In retrospect, I understand how even their actions proved instrumental in turning my eyes and heart to Jesus. This was our journey. He wanted my full attention. And He got it.

Please don’t get me wrong. Journaling, blogging, speaking publicly are reasonable outlets for processing grief and suffering. I hold tremendous respect for those who invite the public into their pain. Their vulnerability speaks to their courage and often serves as a source of encouragement.  I personally benefited from such vulnerability over the past 30 months, especially when most tempted to feel sorry for myself in my cancer battle. Comfort seeped through cracks in my heart each time I read Biblical encouragement poured out from a soul-shattered friend as brain cancer ravaged her young child. More comfort blanketed me as another dear friend boldly proclaimed God’s Goodness even through agony of grieving a son killed in Afghanistan. And in the thick of my battle, letters from my warrior Paratrooper son, serving our country from a Middle Eastern sandbox, pleaded with me to fight bravely in his absence. I’m profoundly grateful for fierce testimonies from individuals defiant in the face of enemy forces seeking to crush them, both figuratively and literally.

Even as God reintroduced me to total emotional and spiritual dependency on him, He often brought random humans for immediate physical support, including a friend I met years ago on the East Coast who flew out to spend a week in prayer over me. And multiple strangers. A single woman I barely knew came bearing casserole, cards and comfort. Neighbors shoveled snow from my driveway – ridiculously steep in our Colorado foothills. An elderly couple at a supermarket followed me through a checkout line, then loaded groceries into my car. (They said I looked pale and weak and God told them to help me.) A UPS driver discovered me in my car passed out from radiaton exhaustion and made sure I got home okay. Three unknown teenagers helped me when I lost balance and fell in a parking lot. Coworkers brought food and hugs.  Former students made my home festive with Christmas decorations and music. So much “kindness of strangers”. And so Good Father. I embraced Comfort in unexpected ways that only our Heavenly Daddy could orchestrate. And orchestrate He did…through grueling months of treatment and into my recovery, He sent angels to minister to me in practical ways while family, friends, even clients and literally hundreds of people I’d never met in person bathed me in phone prayers and cards.

In January, the Lord gave me a word for 2019…COMFORT.

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. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  II Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

Indeed…as we share abundantly in the suffering of Christ, so also our comfort abounds. Now in Remission and restored to health again, I’m called to COMFORT others. What could be more fitting?

 

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Where was God in Waldo Canyon Fire?

“Where was God in the Waldo Canyon Fire?”

Someone posed this question in comments on my last blog.  Not a surprising question, this seems to come up often in disaster or tragedy.  Where was God during 9-11?  Where was God during Oklahoma City bombing?  Or on a personal level: Where was God when my loved one got cancer?  Where was God when war ravaged my spouse?  Where was God when…

Possible versions of this question are as numerous as persons who utter it.

Evacuating our home in Foothills of Colorado Springs during “the worst fire in Colorado’s history”, I glanced back to find our entire neighborhood engulfed in smoke.  Flames and black clouds spanned the Front Range.  Many people later commented how it appeared all of Colorado Springs was on fire.  This catastrophic scene gripped my heart as adrenaline coursed through my veins and stole my breath.  Ravaging effects of fire exploding onto our ridge in 65 mph winds wholly obstructed my usual sublime view of mountain vistas, not the least of which our beloved Pikes Peak.

This rock solid, glorious mountain inspired Katharine Lee Bates in 1823 to pen lyrics to America the Beautiful.  She later referred to it as “Gate-of-Heaven Summit”.   America’s Mountain, 10 miles west of Colorado Springs, 14110 feet above sea level {or 14,117 depending on which account you believe}, 38 acres of grandeur, Majestic Pikes Peak,  vanished from view in a chilling haze of smoke and flames.

In chaos of incineration and devastation of the Waldo Canyon Fire, did Pikes Peak move?  Was this magnificent mound any less regal or glorious than days before?  Could unspeakable disaster minimize its majesty, stymie its strength or lessen its loveliness?

My agonizing inability to see Pikes Peak did not alter the mountain’s presence nor could it.  Despite cataclysmic crisis, “Gate of Heaven Summit” stood resolute.  Likewise, the God of Heaven and Earth, unsurprised by human events, remained steadfast, majestic throughout this travesty and countless others before.

 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. Psalm 93:1-2 NIV

I understand and empathize with the question, “Where was God when…” In my life I’ve experienced numerous times when I couldn’t feel God.  Well-meaning friends advised me to stop relying on feelings because they aren’t real.  Mature Christians, I’m told, put no stock in their feelings.  I must respectfully disagree.  Jesus experienced a deep range of emotions…Joy for little children who came to Him, sorrow over deaths of His best friend Lazarus & cousin John the Baptist, compassion for those who sought healing of Him, betrayal at the kiss of a disciple, and agony & abandonment in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Feelings represent an integral part of the human condition.  They let us know we are fully alive.  They signal that something is wrong…or right…depending on the situation.  The key is not to let our feelings overtake Truth articulated in God’s Word.  Facing fire, evacuation and beyond a most compelling Truth comforts me,

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

In times of great human suffering, we may struggle to “see God”.  Yet His Presence never abandons us to our circumstances.  God takes no holy holidays or celestial coffee breaks.  God did not evacuate the premises during the Waldo Canyon Fire.  No vacancy sign hung from heaven.  No missing celestial person’s report needed filing.

Eyes of our soul play tricks on us and we cannot always see clearly what lies beyond the veil of dark clouds in our path.  Yet, inability to see grandeur cannot diminish its reality.  Our God remains our constant companion just as sure as Pikes Peak emerged from beyond a smoky haze, glorious and majestic.

True to His Word, “I Am with you always even to the ends of the earth…” {Matthew 28:20 American KJV}  God is here in Colorado Springs just as He has always been.

Even beyond this assurance of His Presence, God doesn’t expect us to merely believe He caused something tragic to happen in Colorado, and we just have to accept it.  That would stir an even greater ache than a fire’s devastation.  Instead, our Creator walks this painful journey through a broken world with us.  He is acquainted with our grief and bears our sorrows.

Immanuel, God with us, shares in this gut-wrenching tragedy.   His heart breaks with ours.  He weeps with those who mourn.  In anxiety and calamity we discover our deepest need for God and in these times, if we look for Him, He reveals himself most precious to us.

      God give us eyes to see.

 

 

 

 

{photo by Megan Gendron Howe}