Thursday, February 7, 2013

God moments: grace to push through the pain

I have a migraine. This is not news to many of my friends who know I suffer from them chronically. No, it's not mold; and as for allergies, we just had the vents sucked out and treated. So...that leaves phase in life, and how stress and diet impact all of it. It's a bear, I have to admit, but nothing like the situation a dear friend of mine, I'll call her June, is dealing with right now.

June's dad went into a coma several weeks ago. He was suffering from sepsis and resolving pneumonia at the age of 87. Things looked grim. I sat with her and her mom in the hospital room as they awaited news from the specialists as to what the prognosis was. It sounded very tentative, but hopeful. And so, when her pastor arrived, we prayed over her dad for healing.

The odd thing was, that earlier in the day, I looked at June's mom and said: "If you ever have a crisis, God forbid, you let June call you an ambulance." Within days, dad was improving, had woken from the coma and wouldn't you know it, June's mom fell while getting ready to go to the hospital and broke her leg. She balked for only a moment, and in agony allowed an ambulance to be called.

And there they were, dad and mom, in the same hospital, only a wing separated them; June now having to manage the care of two elderly parents in the hospital and a family at home.  June wrestled with the best way to tell dad what had happened to mom. She didn't want to add to the stress of his illness and recovery.

As, June would put it, a God moment presented itself -- one of those everyday miracles that are often overlooked. Dad received a visitor, someone who didn't know that dad was not aware that mom had broken her leg. Dad innocently asked a question of the visitor: "Is mom behind you?" to which the visitor answered, "No." Dad confused about his own whereabouts, remarked, "She must be upstairs." Seeing as the rehab center is on the upper floors of the hospital they were in, the visitor unwittingly divulged the information that mom was in the hospital. This bit of news was spared being delivered by June. She was grateful, indeed, and made sure to console the mortified visitor, ensuring what he had done was actually a great gift to her. It had opened the door for a much more fruitful conversation with her dad about mom's situation.

This unfortunate slip of information was actually another gift as June saw it. Her parents were able to spend several days together in the hospital before dad went to the rehab facility. So many things had to align to make their being together possible: dad had to know; CCU patients had to be stable to spare a nurse to take dad to see mom;  the attending physician had to approve; two nurses had to agree in order to transport dad to mom; and the ER had to be slow. June witnessed God move everything into place, and her out of the way in delaying sharing the information with dad.  She noted: "Sometimes we are our own worst enemy." The God moments were numerous, but this was the most profound of the experience because it afforded her parents time.

As the circumstance started to become more and more complex, her friends swooped in from Church, neighborhood, clubs, and provided love, support and sustenance. It was truly amazing to witness the level of concern and support. But, as much as the temporal issues matter, the spiritual issues are paramount -- June's life was chaotic, stressful and her emotions and spirit were under attack. Prayer support lifted her continuously, prayer is essential if we are to love our neighbor as Jesus commanded us to do.

Several days passed. June was witnessing one parent improve -- dad; one parent decline -- mom. The stress from the injury had increased the strain on her heart. Just days before June's mom was asking if her beloved of 55 yrs. would recover -- he was now well enough to be transferred to a rehab center waiting to share a room with his wife. Now, mom was facing that question for herself. She developed a stomach ailment and pneumonia, and in a staggering turn of events she preceded her husband into life everlasting.

Oh, the strain on my friend, June. Can anyone possibly imagine preparing your heart for the possibility of one parent passing, and the other parent -- who seemingly had nothing more than a broken leg, passing instead? Now, she was faced with the task (thank heaven for pastoral support) of telling her dad. My heart was aching. Whose wouldn't? And, there's no way to make that moment, that blow, any easier to have to deliver or receive.

Dad was shattered. June was overwhelmed with sorrow, a bit of guilt, details, worries. Now, to plan a funeral and manage the task of getting dad to the ceremony and burial. Is he well enough to transport; logistically is it even possible? Those questions were answered abruptly when dad needed to be readmitted to the hospital with another ailment. The stress levels were high, and my friend June hadn't slept well or enough in weeks. She was starting to waiver, her human strength gone. Only grace could carry her now.

The funeral for mom is this weekend, and I share this with all of you to recount the beauty that is redemptive suffering. Each of June's selfless acts was a moment of grace, a step closer in her trusting supremely in God's will. True, many of us may look more like ducks than swans when we suffer. That's OK. It's ultimately what we do with the suffering that has power -- prayer and surrender. Hopefully, most of us will fall back into the arms of our Lord, and let him carry us through. June has never forgotten this through the entire ordeal. It may not have been easy to this point, yet as new challenges arise, she stands them down, hopes that people understand that she has been through more in 6 wks. than most people have to encounter in a life time, and trusts that God's plan is the perfect plan.

There are still hurdles to come. She knows that. And, for my part, as her friend, I do what I can --pray and offer my sufferings and sacrifices. Today, I offer my pain. I put it all in perspective and realize that these permitted struggles are meant to bring us closer to the Face of God. When we see or experience suffering, we are called to unite our pain, our hearts, our minds, to Jesus crucified. And, just as He uttered His last words on the cross of our salvation, may we also offer all that we have for love of Him to help our neighbor. Let us give our sufferings purpose -- let them be redemptive.

Ask yourself -- today -- now -- how can I offer my sufferings today? Who could use the grace of these struggles?

Pray a short prayer for those in need based on the following Scripture:

Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pt 4:8)

Dear Lord,

I offer my sufferings not only to heal myself of sin that offends You, but out of intense love for my neighbor in their time of need.


Please join me in praying for June and her family as they move through this enormously stressful time -- that they know peace and joy that only can come from God, and are covered with the comfort of our prayers as a small consolation.

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