God's got a real sense of humor... or maybe it's just irony.
I was just starting to feel like I was coming out of my slump of sadness when I managed to pick up a nasty bit of a cold this week. I felt absolutely miserable all day yesterday and have been concerned that this cold might have wiped out my white blood cell count enough to force my doctor to postpone my next treatment, which is scheduled for this upcoming Monday and Tuesday.
Please pray that my treatment doesn't have to be postponed!!!
Thankfully, this morning I woke up feeling a little bit better... and then I got a phone call about bills. You see, the elders have very graciously offered to handle all the back and forth work of calling my insurance company and the billing agents for me to determine exactly what amounts are being covered by insurance and what amounts are my responsibility. Those bills upset me so much, so I'm really thankful for their help in this area! However, the thing is - I've been working hard over the past couple years toward being debt free and I was just starting to see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel when I got my diagnosis and had to accept the fact that I'm going to be snowballing debt like mad through this process. Well, today was the first real proof of that. I was informed that I have over $8,000 in current bills due (that's after my insurance company has paid their part) and I've got $27,000 more already in process... and I'm not even half way through the first step of my treatment! Obviously, I'm quickly racking up a lot of debt! Now, I know we're not supposed to worry and we're supposed to trust that God will provide (he did promise that many times throughout Scripture), but all this was still tough for me to swallow. It's not that I didn't know it was coming; it's just that the financial end of this whole ordeal is just as much of a test of my faith as the physical end for me, if not more!
So, here I sat this morning, feeling sick and worrying about finances as the clock ticked away reminding me that I had committed to sharing my testimony at the nursing home this afternoon. I thought seriously for a while about calling my friend and backing out. How was I supposed to minister to and encourage others when I'm feeling so low myself??? I finally decided that, even if it killed me and I made no impact at all, I had to remain faithful and keep my word to serve the Lord in this way. I was going if it was the last thing I would do today!
I showed up at the nursing home not feeling at all like ministering when the music started. Wouldn't you know all the songs were about trusting God through trials and about how Jesus is there for us when we are suffering. It was all I could do to choke back the tears in front of the ten or so seniors sitting in front of me!
Then I it was time for me to share... I thought I would be able to shut down my emotions and get through it without much thought, but that quickly proved to not be the case. I started to choke up again at my first mention of cancer. I was able to pull it together and made it through to the end of my testimony, where I encouraged the residents to trust God's promises and rejoice in their suffering (of course, I was preaching more to myself than anyone else in the room).
Within a few short minutes of finishing, one of the nurses approached me with tears in her eyes. She said I just had to go and visit one of the residents who has been going through radiation and is about to lose her hair. She looked me in the eyes and told me that I would be such an encouragement to her... if she only knew!!! I was a wreck inside myself and here I find myself smiling on the outside and saying, "Sure, I'd love to! Show me the way." Before she turned around to lead me to the lady's room, she said something simple and profound, "I'm sure God will give you the words you need."
Wasn't that the truth! I think I received as much encouragement (or maybe even more) from this precious resident and her husband than I gave them. We talked for a few minutes and prayed together before I left the nursing home altogether. As I walked out the doors alone (because everyone else had already scattered by then), I was reminded of a passage I had read weeks ago:
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ~
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
Here's the obvious - Paul praises God for giving us the comfort we need as we go through our troubles. Then he turns that right around and challenges us to take that very comfort we have received and use it to comfort others who are struggling. We are promised that in Christ, our comfort will overflow.
Makes sense... that's a passage I've leaned on many times before as I served the Lord. As God allows me to go through difficulties, I learn to use those experiences to minister to others with the love of Christ.
However, in this passage, we can learn just as much from what's not there as we can from what is there. Paul never says, "When you have gotten through your troubles and are feeling much better, you will be able to comfort others with the comfort you received from God." Go ahead... re-read it. I dare you to find that in there! It's just not! No, instead we see only the challenge to help others with the comfort we have received. There is no time frame given to us. We are simply to comfort others out of the comfort we have received from God whenever the opportunity arises!
Later on in 2 Corinthians12:7-10, Paul develops this idea even more:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Do you see it more clearly there? It is in our weakness that Christ's power rests on us in the most prevalent ways. Truly, when we are weak, then we are strong because it is God working through us, not us working in our own strength!
I learned that I do not have to wait until I am through my trials to help others. I'm simply called to be available... whenever I may be needed... in times of joy or suffering... whether I feel able or not. In fact, I think it helps me all the more when, in the midst of my own struggle, I place my focus on the needs of others and remind them of God's great promises and truths. Turns out, I'm not only reminding them - I'm reminding me, too!
So, what are you going through today? Has God called you to comfort someone else, even in the midst of your trial? Step out and do it... like me, you might just be surprised by the results!