Sometimes in life we feel so powerless in difficult situations. A friend that I wrote about awhile back who had been treated for an aggressive form of cancer, and then a heart attack, is back in the hospital this week. While testing is still being done, it appears that the cancer has returned with a vengeance. He has been in excruciating pain for the last couple months and despite many tests they were unable to determine why, now the answer has become painfully obvious. Cancer is sneaky like that, it is good at hiding. I think it is a word that puts more fear in our hearts than any other. Often it is treatable and curable. We all know many people who have gone through this experience, endured treatment of one kind or another, and are alive and well today. We cheer for them, they are truly blessed! But sometimes a cure is not to be.
Almost all of our lives have been touched by cancer in one way or another... a family member or a close friend. We know first hand how difficult this road is to walk. We don't have the magic power to make it go away or make them feel better. We want to help and we find ourselves at a loss to know what to do. I have been so sad in these past few days, asking myself, "How can I help? What can I do?" I do not live where my friend is in the hospital, it is nearly three hours away. I do not live in the city where they live. I cannot show up at the door with a hug or a hot dish or an offer to care for pets. But, there is still something, in addition to prayer, that I can do, that I am supposed to do...
Many years ago I participated in a weekly Bible study with the wife of a coworker at her invitation. She was reclusive and something led her to ask me if I would come to her house for lunch once a week and together we would work through a Bible study course that was directed to helping people discover what it is God wanted them to do with their lives, what their purpose was. Curious, though not knowing her very well, I agreed. Today, I cannot even remember her name, but I have thought of her often and blessed her for the gift of those shared lunches and study, what I learned I know to be my answer, and it has stayed with me all of my life.
My "gift", my assignment - my purpose in this life, is to encourage others. It is something I can do, and it is what I most enjoy doing. It is not a big and flashy purpose, I am not destined to do great things, it does not matter. Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love." I have always know that is the way, what matters most is not what you do, but how much heart you put into doing it. Little things become big things to someone who is desperately in need it of a bit of love and encouragement. We all are in need of that from time to time.
I met the wife of this friend who is so ill, shortly before he married her. I knew that he planned to propose to her one minute after midnight on the first day of the new year. I knew that before she did! They met online and were obvious soul mates. I attended their wedding, and it overflowed with love. A year or two later she was job hunting and began employment at the place where I worked for nineteen years. I got to know her better and we became friends. I learned that she is in some ways like me, a bit reclusive and not one who enjoys crowds, loud people, or social gatherings and chit-chat. Her life centers around her husband and their rural home complete with assorted critters, just as mine does with Papa Bear. She struggles with her own medical issues, and the past few years have brought them financial blow after blow, along with medical problems in abundance. It would try anyone's faith, it would break anyone's strength. Her dream for a long time now has been for them to get to go on a vacation together, anywhere, but there has never been money to do that, and now I cannot help but wonder if there will be a time. Sometimes the realities of life can be harsh.
Over time she and I have become closer, we message back and forth online. She knows I am a listening ear when she feels like her life is unraveling and her heart is going to explode. She knows that she can email, text, or message me anytime, day or night. It is often the wee hours of the morning when there are no friends of family near, that can be the most scary and the most lonely. A message popped in from her at 5 am this morning. It had been a bad night at the hospital where she stays in her husband's room, keeping close, where he wants her to be. How many folks can you message at 5 AM without getting shot? But I have made it clear to her that I am always a listening ear. I have no answers, but I can do what God has assigned me to do... I can listen, care, and encourage. I assure her that God is there with her and that she can find the strength and courage to walk this road, one day at a time, one hour at a time. They are surrounded by much love and many prayers. I listen to her fears, her pain, her frustration and exhaustion, and I send back notes of love and encouragement. I send hugs, I send affirmation that it is ok to feel angry and frustrated and unable to act like all is ok when visitors come, when you know very well that it isn't all ok.
I can't make things better for him or for her, what I can do, is so very small, and yet, I know it is exactly what God has me in her life to do right now, to listen, care and encourage. It is something we can all do. I am so very grateful that I know what my purpose is in life. I don't always do it very well, sometimes I lose focus and get lost in my own struggles and issues, but always, at times like this, God puts me squarely back on track and says "Pay attention, one of my children needs you now, do what you are supposed to do!" While I wish I could do so much more, I am thankful that there is something I can do. I pray that it brings a tiny light of hope to her day. We can all be lifelines for each other, it can be your purpose too!