Updated: Aug 27, 2020
I recently had an old college friend contact me out of the blue. It was truly wonderful to hear from her and catch up on everything that had been swirling around in her life, from her kids' successes to her husband's promotion to her busy volunteered-filled days. As the conservation continued, I quickly realized that we really hadn't traveled much of the same road these past several years and that her's had pretty much been a newly paved highway and mine a wash boarded dirt path. So, I got quiet and just listened to her expound on the perfectly crafted and executed journey that she and her family had ventured thus far. It was pretty. And I was jealous.
As I hung up the phone, I found myself becoming agitated and then just plain pissed.
"What the f**k!", I chided to God. "Must be nice to be her. It's such bullshit that some people have to walk the road of pain while others, merely a path of wincing."
A few days later, still vacillating over our conversation, I remembered how she was fumbling to find something that was "difficult" in her life in order to relate to my loss.....seriously, just don't. Trust me, it merely comes off as flippant and you're better off to say nothing at all. But, if you feel the strong desire to comment, a simple, "I'm so sorry, I can't even image how hard that must have been for you," is really quite perfect. As I continued to sit there stewing, my 'sorry for myself' gene kicked in full bore and before I knew it, my life seemed completely pathetic - and so did I.
Little did I know that I was about to hand deliver an enlightening revelation to myself. I was in my office and having a conversation with a long time customer and we were discussing what we had done over the weekend. I shared that I had attended a graduation party for a friend's daughter and had a fantastic time seeing friends I hadn't seen in awhile, due to COVID. I, then, told him of my friends who have been married for nearly 30 years and how the husband has had muscular sclerosis for the last 10 of them. I shared how I had been talking to his wife a short distance away and how, as soon as he saw me, he got up out of his chair (not easy for him to do) and made his way over to me. His wife saw him limping over to us and with a sparkle in her eye and an enamored looked on her face, she said, "Oh, here comes my hot, sexy man!" And as soon as he reached us, with his warm smile, he grabbed me and gave me a huge hug, like he hadn't seen me in decades, "I'm not supposed to be hugging anyone, but I can't not give one to you!" MS was not going to stop her from "oogling" her man nor was it or COVID going to prevent him from showering kindness upon an old friend.
When I looked over at my customer, I could see that he had tears in his eyes. He then said to me, "Makes you wonder how God could allow such a beautiful couple to suffer through an illness like that. It just does't seem right." He paused, shook his head and softly inquired, "Why would HE do that?".
Without even taking a breath, I answered. "Because they show us what pure love is. They make us want to be better people simply because of who they are. They show us what grace under fire really looks like and that hope and faith exist in the greatest of trials. They are the true beauty in this world. And they are all of those things because of their sufferings. The way in which they handle their pain is an example to all of us - it provides us the opportunity to learn and grow. I am honored to call them friends and thankful for how their journey has effected mine."
God had just used my mouth for HIS words.
We both sat there in silence after my (God's) dissertation. There really wasn't anything more that needed to be said.
As I reexamined my reaction to my phone conversation in the days prior, I became remorseful, even ashamed. How could I have been so blind in my wallowing? How had I so easily lost perspective? Pity had grabbed a hold of my soul and I ran with it. I knew the truth. And the truth is that some people are called to suffer more than others in this world. And that's O.K. In fact, it's more that O.K. - it's a privilege; an honor; a gift. So, I'll take my dirty old back road with all the bumps and bruises it brings - it may not be the fastest or cleanest route, but I guarantee it'll be the most beautiful.
"For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him."
"God gave you the honor both of believing in Christ and suffering for Christ..."
"There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting."