Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Suffering and understanding

The last year has been ...well, interesting to say the least.

A year ago October 5th, my mother in law had a minor heart attack. Early the next morning, she suffered 3 consecutive strokes. She remained on life support for some time, was unresponsive and was expected to die. In fact, we had the conversation with the doctor to take her off of life support, or as they call it "withdraw care". That's supposed to make it sound not so final and harsh, I suppose. She pulled through. By the mercy of God and with the help of hundreds of prayer warriors across the country, she lived. She went to rehab, an extended care facility and this spring, she came home.  It's been a long, difficult transition for the family. Especially for my father in law and my twelve year old sister in law. But God continues to aid in her improvement and everyone is adjusting But still, it's rough.

Then I found out on December 20th that our 22 months of trying to conceive had finally worked! Another act of God that was a perfectly timed miracle and sustainer. You know, I'm so glad that he chose to give us Dahlia when he did. She's been a big upper for us this year in the midst of some weird, unwelcomed situations.
Behold, God is my helper; 
                                                 The Lord is the sustainer of my soul. 
Psalm 54:4

In January I lost one of my grandfathers. He was 96.  He suffered a stroke and was in very poor condition for a couple of months. Watching my dad care for him in this sad state was humbling. Feeding him baby food, preparing his meals in a blender, helping him to the bathroom and waking up at all hours to care for him. It was a great exaple of how we are to care for one another, espeically our family. Devastating and humbling.

This spring, my father (my parents divorced when I was 2) told me that he had brain cancer. Little did we know it was the fastest most agressive type of brain cancer. And since his diagnosis he has had multiple episodes of extreme pain, ICU visits, falls, breaks and overall weakness and deterioration. He's in his 50's. It doesn't quite seem right. While our relationship isn't the typical father-daughter relationship, I feel this situation deeply. Something about a parent, the person who gave you life, suffering is very hard to watch.  This past weekend we saw him at my brother's wedding. My step-mom got him from the rehab. He was wheeled down the aisle in his wheel chair. He didn't make it long becuase he was tired and in pain but he made it.  What a bittersweet celebration. He was able to watch his son get married. They were going to get married next year but because of the situation, the moved the date up and were able to celebrate their day with the entire family. He got to meet my daughter for the first time. He just kept kissing her head, calling her "shuggie-toes" and asking to look at her. He kept saying how much he loved us over and over and over. Like it would be the last time..

Last week the world lost one of its sweetest men, my grandpa John. This is my mom's dad. He was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, source unknown, in the spring. After suddenlhy losing his voice and feeling "icky" he went to the doctor. After a long line of mulitple doctor visits a doctor found the cause, a paralyzed voice box due to cancerous masses pushing up on them. He was given the diagnosis on August 26th and on October 3rd he went home to be with the Lord. He suffered. He really suffered.  I saw him 2 weeks before he died and he had deteriorated significantly since the last time I had saw him.  2 weeks later and another visit, I could barely recognize him. He still knew me and called me "beautiful one" when I first got there. But by the end of the visist, he wasn't respoding.  I've never seen suffering like this and I hope I never do again.

I don't understand suffering. I know it's  essential to this life unfortunately. I don't understand the concept of "when it rains, it pours". But I know it to be true. I don't get it. But I know it serves a purpose.
I know to trust in the Lord with all of my heart and not to lean on my understanding. Which is good, because I don't understand.

I'm just a secondary sufferer in all of this. And, as I mentioned, I got a major answer to prayer in the meantime which has been my great sustainer through all of this. I'm not wallowing in sorrow here, I'm just being real with how much it hurts to watch family members suffer. To lose. To not know what the next year will be like. To not be their former selves ever again. It's hard to suffer the loss of a dear one. It's hard to watch your parents suffer the death of their own parents and it makes me not ever want to grow up and watch my parents grow old. It's hard to start the mourning process for someone you know will soon be gone but never knowing when it willl be. It's hard to not only morn a physical death but to mourn the relationship that "should have been" with a parent.
It hurts to watch a 12 year old girl missing her mother that used to be. 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2 Corinthians 4:8-11

So, I don't understand. And I hurt.
I hurt for the dying. I hurt for the living.

I am reminded how fragile life is not only with all these ailing people but in the tininess and helplessness of my daughter. I am reminded how we are to care for one another at all times, no matter how old we are or where we are in life. No matter how convenient or inconvenient it may be for us.

 It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 
Lamentations 3:22-23

I understand that through one man's suffering the world was made new.
So again, I am reminded that sacrifice of comfort and understanding helps point to the One who restores and heals. We are refined and renewed by this process of suffering and pain. He brings comfort and understanding. But we have to go through it to get to that point, I think.

If you have time watch the sermon excerpt from John Piper that I've posted below.. it gives good perspective on this topic. It speaks to spiritual and physical suffering.
I've watched it and I understand what he is saying.
But I still don't really understand.
But I am praying about that.

I'm also praying for a "better" year for our families in 2012. I'm praying that my daughter is healthy, happy and "normal". BUT I realize we are not entitled to those things. But with His grace, whatever may happen in the coming months, we may not understand but we will be sustained.

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