Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Joy amidst the trial

Thanksgiving came and went. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday are all behind us. Christmas decorations are emerging all throughout the neighborhood.  Amidst all this flurry-- last Friday, when many of us were shopping or decorating or sleeping off a turkey coma, our friend Ben was in a serious desert bike accident. He was transported via Life Flight to a local San Diego hospital, and there he has remained and will stay for a minimum of three weeks, with a long rehabilitation ahead. He has 14 broken bones and yesterday had another surgery for his broken hip.  I was horrified when I heard the news and immediately began praying that God would keep him alive. But my shock and fear couldn’t hold a candle to what my friend Vickie, Ben’s wife, must have felt when she received “that phone call.” Everything you know changes in an instant. Everything that was important is now insignificant. I know, because it was how I felt when I first heard the words, “You have cancer.” Suddenly nothing else means anything except to cling to hope and fight for life. I know that is what Ben and Vickie are doing right now.

I asked Vickie if I could share a portion of their experience in this week’s blog because what they are going through is central to the theme and purpose of my blog. I began writing this blog over three years ago when diagnosed with cancer and focused on the verse in James 1: 2-4. I have repeated this verse numerous times and it bears repeating. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” Right now my friends Ben and Vickie are experiencing a huge trial filled with pain—physical and emotional. This trial extends to their whole family—Ben’s parents and siblings, their relatives and their kids. It wasn’t just Ben’s life that has been impacted by this accident, but all those near to him. We are all so thankful that Ben survived this accident and that his prognosis is hopeful, albeit a very long road ahead. This is certainly a huge trial that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but what I look at when I see Vickie and her family… joy amidst the trouble.

Vickie is a woman of faith. She is strong, fierce and independent. She is one of those humble “doers”—she is involved in many areas serving our community and she never wants the spotlight.  She is the person who is first to sign up to bring meals to Young Life leaders, to volunteer at a school event, to bring food to a party, to do those tedious behind the scenes tasks. She doesn’t like attention on herself and she lives out her faith with quiet action. Ben is the same way. He is funny, giving, light hearted, with a fierce love for friends and family. I know that they are people who wouldn’t want to put anyone out or accept help because they know there are so many people less fortunate. But when the love of our community and their friends began pouring in, Vickie and Ben discovered something beautiful. For the past week they have been able to see community and faith in action. They have been the recipients of an outpouring of love. They have seen that “in the midst of great trouble, comes an opportunity for joy.”

Vickie wrote this in a recent FB post: Ben and I just wanted to take a minute to make an attempt to articulate our gratitude to all of you. There are really no words to express what it means to have this amount of love and support. It is impossible to put into words the way it feels to know there is food for our kids at home, offers of help to run Ben's business while he is unable to work, my employers giving me all the time I need to be with my family, people taking over for me wherever possible, people taking care of our dog, prayers that have sustained us through this all, loving hugs around me holding me up when I want to fall. There is no way we will ever be able to repay every penny we have been given or every kind gesture but you should know you have changed our lives and we will always do everything possible for others as you have done for us .You have shown the true meaning of love to our family and in that shown our children the same. They will carry that with them to their children and on and on. You have made a difference not only in our lives but many more than you will ever know. Thank you just doesn't seem enough but that's all we can say for now. We thank God for each and every one of you!!!

During this trial, Vickie and Ben and their family have been able to experience a deeper faith, an intense sense of love and community, and an endurance that they probably thought was impossible. But it is during these darkest times, that we can see the hope in humanity, the kindness of people, and the love of a community coming together. We simply do not see these things when we are living out our ordinary day to day existence. This is what I experienced during my cancer battle—a stronger faith, a deeper love, an intense yearning for life, and a clear perspective on what is really important. I am sure that Ben, Vickie, Shane and Jade are feeling that and more right now.

No one ever wants to hear that dire diagnosis or receive that horrible phone call, or go through a dark and dismal season. But it is through these times that we learn and grow. As the passage from James says, “our faith is tested and our endurance has a chance to grow.”  

Please join me in praying for the Norris family as they face a longer trial ahead. And as we rally around them, let us put into perspective what is really important. 

Faith, hope, and love….and the greatest of these is love.
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