Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lessons in Suffering: Little Lights Along the Way


"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." -- Leo Buscaglia

I must admit, this summer has been one of the most difficult times of my life. Recovery from back surgery has been slow and painful, as we have explored a variety of therapies to stop the painful muscle spasms that serve as daily reminders of instability in my spine. Besides feeling guilty for the strain my recuperation has put on our family life, I also feel pulled to be with my extended family this summer. I have yearned to sit with my mother, who is still on a ventilator and dealing with myriad complications after a grueling stem cell transplant. I have wanted to assist my aunt, who is undergoing aggressive treatments for lung cancer. And I long to surprise my sister by walking into her hospital room to hold her newborn baby, scheduled for delivery tomorrow.
This summer has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. But in the midst of all the pain, worry, guilt and uncertainty the past few months have brought, I have realized something profound.
I am OK.
Despite all the backaches and heartaches, deep down in my soul I feel peace because I know that God is with me. That peacefulness comes from -- not great faith on my part -- but extraordinary faithfulness on His. Psalm 46:1-2 proclaims, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea."
Recently a friend and I were talking about how even in the darkest days, God gives us blessings along the way -- little candles to light our path and let us know that He is with us. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."
He has been with me throughout this journey, and His footprints look like those of the many people who have come alongside and walked a little of the path with me. Some have fallen in step to let me know they are praying. Others have linked arms with me, offering empathy and counsel as we talk about our similar struggles. Many have carried my burdens, shouldering responsibilities of cooking, housework and childcare. Still others have brought beauty to my path, blessing me with flowers, gifts and cards of encouragement. All have brought the glow of their Christian light.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, "Ye are the light of the world."
Consider the beautiful imagery of walking through the darkest passages of your journey, joined by other Christians -- all gathering their lights to show you the way. The image of all those little lights coming together from near and far, over hill and dale, is even more beautiful when we realize that together we don't just light the path of one who is suffering. Together, we illuminate Him.
Jesus continued, "A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (verses 14-16).
We do not always know where the path will lead or when darkness will fall. But if we trust in God, we can be sure He will lead us, blessing us daily with little lights along the way.

"Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies" (Psalm 36:5).
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