My life began to crumble around me.
The sun was extra yellow, the sky blue and covered in white puffy clouds. It was the kind of day, as a kid I loved to be in! And somehow it seemed darker than ever.
Tangled in the chords of back surgery pain and chemo-driven nausea, I could feel myself falling.
I can’t do this.
I don’t want to do this.
I survived high school, heartbreaks, ACT’s and finally made it to college. The hard part of life was over…right?
I can’t do this.
Before October I was sure I had been through the worst of my share of the earthly suffering we all get to have. Difficultly was my middle name, I was handed: a few abusive relationships, some terrible friends, a shaky faith and rumors galore!
But this battle? It threw me into a more painful kind of suffering.
A never ending physical kind of suffering
Sure I had no idea what was ahead.
Even as I sit and pray, and try
To live my life as normally as possible, hoping one day my scans come back clean, I think about my suffering. The amount of pain I am enduring nothing compared to how horrible it could be!
Ask the girl who lays in a hospital bed, after the doctors say they can’t help her anymore.
Ask the mother who’s child was stolen from her.
Ask the child who has never seen a day where he wasn’t beaten.
All of these scenarios have happened in the world, and they are all difficult, but the one thing they all share, is they could each be worse.
I haven’t quite figured out why all of this happens in the world, probably never will, but I do know that to keep yourself from falling down into an endless pit of depression, you have to know that it could be worse.
My friend, whatever you’re fighting today, whatever challenge or pit you find yourself falling into, it’s time to get your fight back. Here’s how I’m getting it back for me:
Cement yourself in TRUTH. Pain—physical or emotional—is a liar. It taunts without mercy, tries to convince you there is no light, no relief, no potential for life. Acknowledge this. Then, tell yourself the truth. Write it down. Memorize it. It could be as simple as “This WILL end!” During a dark night, a friend wisely advised me to find a few anchoring Bible verses. Lamps in my dark. So I dug up six and wrote them on index cards. I carry them with me wherever I go. I’ll sleep with them if I have to. The words may not always feel warm and fuzzy, but they remain truth. And truth is far better cement than my fluctuating emotions.
Surround yourself with HOPE. Suffering is an ominous soundtrack. It fills the ears and heart and mind with a desperate dirge. It’s understandable, considering. But if you and I are to endure, we need to write our own music. Dance to the tune we set. Literally, I have picked out two different songs that both remind me of God’s past faithfulness and inspire me to live forward. When I feel the earth start to give, I play one of these songs, close my eyes, and let the hope change the accompaniment of my life.
Focus your eyes on TODAY. I’ve discovered my greatest temptation in suffering is to get ahead of the calendar. I try, foolishly, to manage the future by imaging what might happen. But the more I try to anticipate what may come, the more I worry over days that have not yet arrived. I miss out on TODAY in my poor attempts to leverage tomorrow. Here’s the truth: I can’t endure 100 days of suffering. But I can endure one. ONE. That’s enough.
Give yourself AWAY. This is perhaps the best secret of all, the one that acts like a three-inch thick rope pulling me out of my quicksand. Before chemo started, when the earth went soft and my faith felt weak, I realized I needed something to focus on besides my own struggle. So I committed to pray for one new person for each of 28 days of treatment. Before each appointment, I pray for a single name and write it on a small card. Then, while the radiation machine and IV bags wreak havoc with my body, I hold that card in my right hand and pray my heart out. I don’t do this because I’m noble or spiritual. On the contrary, I do this because I’m utterly selfish and weak. I could make a full-time job out of feeling sorry for myself. Giving myself away is the only cure.