We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan. [Romans 8:28 (GW)]
Saturday morning, my husband and I arrived at a nearby park for our morning walk. Banners and tables were being set up for a fundraising walk. Giving it no thought, we continued onto the trail where we saw signs indicating the event was for suicide prevention. As we returned to the community center, we heard the mournful sound of bagpipes and found the participants gathering, many of whom were wearing shirts in memory of loved ones they’d lost to suicide.
We stopped to ask about making a donation and, in one of those beautiful God-incidences, we happened to speak with the event organizer. As we returned to the parking lot, another woman chased after me with a magazine saying, “This is her story!” Our pastor often speaks of taking our messes and turning them into messages and the organizer of this event did just that. When just a girl, she lost her father to a murder/suicide and, when a mother, she lost her 15-year old daughter to the same thing. Her grief eventually led her to try to take her own life. It was only the thought of leaving her remaining daughter to deal with that mess that finally stopped her attempts at self-destruction. As she began to heal, she openly shared her story by writing a book, speaking at events, organizing fundraisers, and offering support to survivors of suicide. Determined to make something good out of such tragedy, she is working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in our area.
I know of another woman whose eight-year-old son died after battling cancer for five years. She formed a small charity in his memory. Although it started out by bringing bears to local children hospitalized with cancer, the organization is now nation-wide and funds both cutting-edge research to end pediatric cancer and the immediate needs of families whose children are battling cancer. Another organization dear to my heart was founded by the parents of a little boy whose life was cut short by congenital heart disease. Realizing that it was only recent medical advances that had allowed them the eight joyful years they did have with their son, they started a foundation dedicated to congenital heart disease research.
Most of us won’t write books, organize fundraisers or found charities as a way to turn our messes into messages. Nevertheless, we all can do something. I know of a couple who work with Families Anonymous. They help other families deal with the destructive behavior of their loved ones by leading meetings and sharing what they learned from their children’s mental illness and addictions. Today I spoke with a woman, a survivor of breast cancer, who was encouraged when another survivor shared her cancer experience and now helps other young women after they hear the crushing diagnosis of a malignancy.
Anyone can make something good out of beautiful raw materials; with God’s guidance, however, we can make something good out of the unpleasant and ugly. We can make a message from our messes, a lesson from our losses, and a testimony from for our trials. The news that we’ve been there, done that, and survived it can be good news to someone else. It’s not easy to accept some of the challenges God’s throws our way. We ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Saturday, I was reminded that our question should be, “Lord, what do you want me to do with this?” It is through service that we eventually can make sense of our lives.
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God. [Phillips Brooks]