hope through pain

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The Other Side of Pain

Hope Through Pain

Ahhhhhh!  I was running late again!  I tried to get there in time to watch my oldest girl cartwheel and roundoff at her tumbling class.  My meeting ran late, traffic was bad and I went to the wrong gym to catch the tail end of my boys basketball practice.  So I was a little winded when I climbed the stairs that led up to the room where I found my daughter’s best friend’s mom watching the activities from above.

I sat beside her and asked how she was?  We chit-chatted about the holidays and family in town and work and such.  Then I remembered that she had recently had a bout with Cancer and questions began to distract me from our casual conversation.  What must it be like to return for a third visit to the family doctor with that news?  Imagine yourself sitting across the table from the man who had written your family dozens of prescriptions for colds and flus, allergies and infections.  Such simple fixes.  Such easy answers.  And now he has no answer, only questions, like you.  “I don’t know how to tell you this, but the tests were positive.”

I know how I would have felt.  My heart would have sunk.  A darkness would have fallen that felt cold and frightful.  I would have sat speechless.

I looked over to her and clumsily asked the question without knowing exactly how I wanted it to come across.

“How’s your health, Susan?”

“Everything looks good.  No problems.”

“Wow!  That’s amazing huh… a miracle.  It’s crazy how quickly our perspective can change.  In just a moment our whole life can be different.”

She responded with a simple “yeah.”  Then she spoke the most profound statement I’d heard in some time.

“I’m most thankful for the pain.”

What? This lady with three young girls under her care… with a life full of hope… that faced the news that causes cold sweats when we find an unexpected lump on our body… the lady who struggled through treatments and waded through the mire of the unknown every time she drove to her next doctor’s appointment.. the one who beat a disease that has killed countless… is most thankful for “the PAIN.”

“Some folks don’t have pain when they have Cancer. I did. The doctor said that if this went undetected for another month or so, it might have been incurable.  The pain saved my life.”

Facing the Unknown

Then there was my high school friend who shares my first name. Kevin contacted me late into the night on Facebook when neither of us could sleep. We spent most of the earliest morning hours messaging back and forth. Kevin’s biopsy was already en-route to the lab. And this is not to mention the lump he had found in another part of his body.

We talked about past mistakes and how proud he was of how he has fathered his kids. We discussed childhood and adulthood and just about everything in between. The looming concern was how the boys would make it without him if his greatest fears were true. We talked about guilt and freedom and failure and victory. Perspectives change so fast when the unknown is hovering over your head like a swarm of flies on the compost pile.

Kevin messaged me yesterday to let me know there is no cancer. We praised the Maker together!

I know you probably are familiar with the line in the Compass that says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Maybe that’s what Susan meant when she spoke so highly of pain. And I suspect Kevin sees things a bit differently after such a scare… I would.

My Own Story of Redemption

I was a boy scout as a kiddo. We were on day 3 of a 5-day canoe trip down the Buffalo River in southwest Tennessee. I was wading through the water and looked down to find a cigarette lighter. Boy scouts leave no trace. I reached underwater to grab that butane lighter and stuck it in the trash bag in my canoe. It was my daily “good turn.” 

That night sitting around the campfire, one of my scout leaders tossed  that trash bag on the fire. A few minutes later an chunk of metal and plastic thrust out of that fire like a jet rocket. The liquid “rocket fuel” covered my shin and my leg caught fire. I ran to the river and waded waste deep in that 50 degree water. “Whew, close call,” I remember thinking, but as I stepped out of that frigid water I felt like someone swung a baseball bat as hard as they could and hit me right on the shin. I was burned badly.

Maybe my scout troop wasn’t as prepared as the boy scout motto instructs, but all we had to dress the wound was some iodine, a white t-shirt and some duck tape. The pain of that night burned deep into my memory vivid details of voices and raccoons and fear and pain, I can relive it like it happened an hour ago. 

But what I remember most is the guy that paddled me to the waiting emergency vehicle 12 hours later. We had to canoe about a mile to reach an exit point where I could be picked up and taken to a doctor. I don’t know his name. I can’t remember his face. But I feel his compassion, care and rescue every time I find myself in a situation bigger than I. Somehow, that chilly morning riding in the front of that canoe on the Buffalo River in southwest Tennessee, I learned how to trust God to get me to safety. That short ride taught me how to just let God rescue me when I can’t rescue myself. It’s a feeling in my bones that I can’t explain, but I know that He will paddle the boat when I can’t even put one foot in front of the other.hope through pain

Yes. Bad things happen to good people. Life sometimes hurts. But if we can somehow broaden our perspective, redefine our understanding, and embrace the value of life’s challenges, the other side doesn’t seem so far away. Because there’s almost always the other side of trial. 

And when we’re standing on the shore gazing back at the other side, we gain a deeper understanding of the teachings of James, the earthly half-brother of Jesus, who says, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4)

PURE JOY?

Susan was right when she said, “I’m most thankful for the pain.”

Husband. Father. Disciple of Jesus. Entrepreneur. My passion is to call people to embrace a vision, count the cost, overcome the obstacles, and chase their dreams.

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