My dad was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of months ago. We didn't even think in our worst nightmares that something like this would befall our family. Cancer to us was always other people's disease. And finally when it happened to our family, we didn't know what to expect. We were, and are still, blessed to have so many people visit, call and pray for my dad. But I often wonder how people who don't know the love of God and the fellowship of believers ever make it through suffering.
People always have so many encouraging things to say to us. They are extra sensitive around us when they talk about diseases. And it has even become a habit of many to ask about my dad first before asking how I am doing. I'm not complaining. In fact, I love that people remember that dad is not well and that they would actually take the time out to call or Whatsapp at random times just to say that they are praying for my dad. We as a family are extremely grateful for such friends and family.
When I look back, I don't know if I have been so encouraging to others in their suffering. Of course I have prayed for people who are sick. But I don't know if I have been constantly checking on someone to know how someone's mother or son or wife is doing.
Now that I think about it, I haven't been very faithful with all the prayer requests that came my way either. I have only been sympathetic, not empathetic towards my friend's needs. Now that I am on this side of the wall, I can see how much a single encouragement or even a pat on the shoulder can mean to someone who is going through a tough time in life.
True, nobody would fully understand what I am going through except someone who's gone through exactly the same thing. So in the flood of verses and prayers and encouragement, there is one voice which stands out for me. It's a friend whose mother was diagnosed with cancer too. She doesn't need to say profound things. She just says, "I know what you are going through. I will pray for you," and I know for a fact that she does and she will. That comforts me like no other! I know that she cried her heart out when she heard about her mother's cancer for the first time; I know that she's seen her mum being dependent on other people for her daily needs; I know that she's wrestled with God to get her mum's life back.
For us no day is like the other. Just when I think it can't get any worse, it does. It always finds a new way to get worse. Life's not the same anymore! But when you have people who have seen it and been there say, "I know what you are going through. I will pray for you." It just makes things OK, at least till the time cancer finds new ways to scare you. Now I can see all of this suffering in a new light. Next time when someone asks me to pray for someone who has cancer, I am not going to pray as I have prayed before. I know exactly what they need. I know their struggles. I know their deepest wants and wishes and I know how to put on a brave face and smile. I know!
See, that's the beauty of suffering. When you have seen the ugly side of it all, you can boldly look it in the face and say, "I can see hope in you!" My dad is in the hospital as I write this, but when I think of him, I think of hope. I think of a God who knows me and my innermost desires. I think of all the people who have come along us and comforted us.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4
Now do you see? Our suffering is not our own. It is not for us alone. It is, so that we can comfort others who need to be comforted. I know now it's my turn!
Photo Credit: Jenny Martin