These days it seems the stories of our lives play out on Facebook. All our milestones — our birthdays and graduations and weddings and anniversaries. Our date nights and vacations and family reunions. Our faith, our politics, our rants and observations, our random thoughts, and silly humor.
This morning I’m thinking about a journey I’ve witnessed on Facebook lately. Actually two different journeys. With two different Facebook friends. Both of them Christian women authors and speakers – women I’d met in person at some point… at a conference or convention we were all attending years ago. Women I’d reconnected with recently online. Whenever their posts have popped up in my feed, I’ve clicked “like” and sometimes we’ve chatted back and forth. Just happy, friendly, ordinary stuff, really. Nothing particularly remarkable.
Until late last summer or fall. Within a few days or weeks of each other, these two women were suddenly diagnosed with cancer. Different types of cancer, but both severe.
In an instant, their Facebook posts changed. They became a steady stream of health updates – surgery, chemo, radiation. Lots of tearful prayer requests, often followed by tearful praise reports. Both women were at times heart-breakingly real and honest about the pain they were going through, the doubts, the fears, the questions. At the same time, both proclaimed absolute faith and trust in God, both were determined to win the battle and receive their healing from Him. Both shared lots of Scriptures and encouraging words they had received, along with thank-yous to family members and friends who were helping them fight the good fight. They even posted cancer humor and chemo jokes to lighten the mood.
A few weeks ago, one woman posted that her treatments were finally at an end — and that the doctors had declared her “cancer-free”! After hundreds of congratulatory messages and posts full of rejoicing, her Facebook feed is already starting to return to “normal.” Not that she will ever be the same – this battle, this journey has changed her forever. But her focus has already shifted. She’s returning to writing and speaking, with renewed energy and passion.
A few weeks ago, the other woman posted that although her treatments were finally at an end, she couldn’t seem to get rid of some lingering infections and she was headed back to the hospital – where her doctors seemed unable to help her with the complications and the pain. A couple of days ago, she was posting an update / prayer request, and then the next day her family members were posting in her place – letting everyone know that she had slipped into a coma from which she would not awake. Yesterday she passed away.
I’ve watched these two precious women over the past few months, thinking of them often, praying for them. Laughing and crying and celebrating and grieving with them. And I’ve been reminded yet again of some profound spiritual truths:
1. For better or for worse, our lives can change in an instant. You and I have no idea what lies ahead. So many of the things we dream of or plan for or worry about or fear will be totally irrelevant to us in a few months or a few years – if not days. I spend so much of my life in the future or the past. When all I really have is today.
2. Our times are in His hands. Both of my friends trusted God. Both had faith that He would heal them. And He did. One He healed here on earth and the other He healed in His presence. One He set free and sent forth to continue the work He has called her to. One He set free forever – she had finished what He sent her to do. It won’t be easy for the woman who is battle-scarred but living – because while she lives, she has many more battles to fight. It won’t be easy for the family of the other woman, now left behind and missing her so desperately. Only God knows how many days, how many years He has given us on this earth. Each one is a gift — and when it’s gone is up to Him.
3. He is faithful. Both of my friends can attest to that… they knew He was with them every step of the way. Both of them found a richer, deeper experience of His love, His power, His mercy, His grace. Wherever He leads us in our journey, wherever He calls us to go, whatever He asks us to endure for His Name’s sake – He will be with us, always. To the very end. And even then.
Whenever that doesn’t seem enough for me — and I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes I just really, REALLY don’t want to be on the path I find myself on — I remember that the alternative is not a life without suffering and pain and grief and loss. Because that life does not exist. The alternative to suffering WITH Him is suffering WITHOUT Him. And that’s something I don’t ever want to face. Will never have to face.
I’m so thankful to both of my sweet friends for reminding me of that.