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Michelle Warner

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Comfort in Community

Posted on August 27th, 2010

A theme that has continued to encourage me throughout the last year is the beauty of community. There are not enough words to articulate how touched I have been by the way people have loved and supported Jared and me.

This was on my mind today as I brought my Bible up to my deck for some reflection time. The passage that I read was 2 Corinthians 1. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I read because it was exactly what I needed to hear today. Below are the words that touched me from the Message version:

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of His healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too…

We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since He’s the God who raises the dead! And He did it, rescued us from certain doom. And He’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.” (vs 3-5, 8-11)

Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth but in many ways, I feel like he expressed many of my own feelings. Here are a few of his phrases that stuck out to me:

“[God] comes alongside of us when we go through hard times” (vs 4).

There is no doubt in my mind that God carried me through this last year. I still shake my head in disbelief when I reflect on all that’s happened—and all that I could never have endured without God’s strength. These are not just words that sound nice—they are the truth of what strengthened me to put one foot in front of the other this past year.

“Before you know it, [God] brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (vs 4).

God has used the stories of so many of you to encourage and strengthen me. For example, one of our dear family friends is five years down the remission road from colon cancer. We emailed recently because I asked her how she moved past the fear of possible reoccurrence. She candidly responded about her struggle with fear but also shared the truths that have helped her rest in God’s promises each day. God used her troubles to encourage and inspire me, and He couldn’t have used her in the same way if she hadn’t experienced such difficulties.

I can’t possibly verbalize all that I’ve learned through this health crisis, but one lesson is for sure: there is beauty and freedom in vulnerably sharing our stories with each other. I think of another family friend who struggled with infertility. The cards I received from her were so rich in empathy, even though our situations were quite different. I didn’t even know about her situation but I could tell that God deepened her through her troubles. As a result, she brought comfort to me.

I have been praying that God would use this cancer road for His glory, and one way I believe He does that is through allowing our disappointments to comfort others. As I type this, one of my dear friends is walking through a tremendous difficulty. I don’t have inspiring words that will change her situation, but I can offer empathy to facing a situation so far from what you’ve envisioned. In His infinite wisdom, God is using this commonality to bond us even closer as friends.

“It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since He’s the God who raises the dead!” (vs 8,9). [Verse nine in the New International Version says, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”]

You should have seen me as I was reading this section. I was enthusiastically nodding my head, agreeing right along with Paul. Yep, there were times I “didn’t think I was going to make it.” And even now, I can still feel twinges of this despair.

Yet, Paul follows this up by explaining that he was “forced to trust God totally.” I know a little bit about that. As a recovering perfectionist, I have prided myself in being able to accomplish whatever lies in front of me. Being diagnosed with cancer and walking a road that was so completely foreign to me forced me to rely on God (and continues to!). I couldn’t find the map for this crazy journey to navigate it myself, so instead had to throw up my hands and say, “Okay, God, lead me because I can’t do it on my own.” I think that’s His goal all along because in these types of instances He receives the glory for what’s accomplished rather than how well I performed in my own strength.

“And He did it, rescuing us from certain doom, And He’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.” [The second half of verse 10 in the NIV says, “On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us” (vs 10).]

Amen to that! I was thinking as I read this verse that if God would have told me a while back that this was the road He intended for me, I think I would have crumbled with fear. But thankfully, He gave (and continues to give) me grace and courage to persevere when faced with the situation. I say this because I don’t know what the future holds (none of us do…darn it!) but I do know that I can set my hope on HIM that He will continue to deliver me.

“You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either…a rescue in which your prayers played a crucial part” (vs 11).

I don’t think I need to express much more than what Paul already said. Thank you for the way you encouraged my heart through your prayers for me. In light of this, I wanted to share my most recent email and update about my health sent to my family and friends.

August 18, 2010

Hi dear friends,
Since you have been so incredibly supportive of me throughout my journey, I wanted to let you know that we [finally] received news that my 3-month check-up was clear. Thank you, Lord!!! I had my ultrasound back at the beginning of August and then my oncologist appointment on August 10th. They had a mix-up with my blood work, and so I had to go back downtown to get it redone. Needless to say, I was grateful to finally hear tonight that everything looked good. (I know it wasn’t that long, but waiting for news like this is extra tough!)

Since being released with the “good-to-go” dismissal three months ago, I have definitely had a range of emotions. Jared and I have likened it to the aftermath of a storm. The storm’s winds blew hard and the rain was intense, but we survived. However, after the storm passed we realized how much debris there was in the aftermath. It’s been challenging to face so many fears and realities. I wouldn’t say I was prepared for how hard the last three months were going to be but as I’ve gone to the depths of myself, I’ve learned many lessons. First and foremost, God has been reminding me that He is consistent and faithful – no matter what news we receive. I also have had moments of great joy and gratefulness. Celebrating my 30th birthday with many friends and family this summer was a wonderful encouragement. God has been SO good to me.

I do have one prayer request on my heart. And since I have never held back in the past, I thought I’d continue the transparency. My blood work has shown that my hormones are very off balance and currently in menopause range. My oncologist does not think that they will always stay there, but these next few months are crucial for my ovary to “wake up.” (One side effect of chemo is that the ovary can go into sleep mode.) It is the desire of Jared’s and my heart to be able to have our own children, and our prayer is that my hormones will be able to balance themselves out so that this could happen. However, I told the doctor recently that my top desire is to be healthy so if we have to look into other options in terms of children, we are willing to do that. I say all of this to ask that as God brings me to mind, would you pray that He would touch my body and straighten out my hormones? If for no other reason than for my body to be as healthy as it can be. Yet, if there’s anything I’ve learned through all of this, it’s to keep an open hand and trust God’s best for me, and so we do trust Him with my health, our desires, and our future.

Thanks for reading this long-winded message and thanks a million for your prayers and encouragement.
Much love,
Michelle and Jared

May you and I both allow God to comfort our hearts with the circumstances in front of us so that we can comfort those He places in our paths.

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