On January 11, a woman that I don’t know suffered a major stroke. She was 38. She is 38. She is still alive though in very, very serious condition. Her name is Joanne Heim and she blogs here. She’s currently in a medically induced coma to reduce swelling in her brain and her husband is updating her blog for her. You may have heard of her if you or your friends follow the Living Proof Ministries blog or twitter accounts from any of their staff. There are thousands of people all over the world praying for her healing.
I have to admit that my first reaction to the public out-pouring of support was one of jealousy. The updates on facebook and twitter didn’t bring me to my knees immediately, they just brought me back to 3 years ago. It was 3 years ago today that my mom died. Thousands of people all over the world did not pray for her healing. Famous people didn’t send word out to all their friends to send letters and pray. I know it’s a silly thing to feel jealous of, but it was my very real and honest first reaction.
But the Holy Spirit has been doing some work in my heart and when Satan tried to discourage me by trying to show me the inequities and seeming randomness of God’s healing, I have been reminded of truth and there are some things I know today that I had never thought of 3 years and 1 day ago.
- My mom’s sudden and early death cannot take away the fact that I had 31 years with her. She was there when I graduated from high school and college, she was at my wedding, got to hold my first two babies (and actually drove me to the hospital when I was in labor with Audrey) and I have many wonderful memories with her.
- Having a solid, Bible-based understanding of suffering is crucial to navigating a world full of unexplainable sadness. This quote by Joni Eareckson Tada is profound and explains it well: “Suffering is connected to sin; if God were to get rid of suffering, he’d have to get rid of sin, and then he’d have to get rid of sinners—and God is too merciful to do that.”
- Knowing the right answers isn’t what initially brought comfort. I know this is kind of contradicting my previous point, but hang in there. God’s truths are loving, but they can also be painful. I learned that knowing the answers was of secondary importance to knowing the person of Jesus. There have been times when I couldn’t open my Bible, but I held it and wept, “Jesus, help me.” And He did.
- Suffering can be isolating. So many times people are afraid of saying the wrong thing so they say nothing, avoid the situation, or avoid the person. Shauna Niequist has a chapter in Bittersweet that talks about this very thing. Her advice for when you don’t know what to say is to say this: “I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.” Say something.
- In the middle of it all, I have needed to feel it, mourn it, talk about it, and process it, but I can’t let Satan convince me to stay stuck there. That great big, overwhelming hurt you’re holding (and I’m holding) is not the end of the story. In some ways, I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life, but not in a way that crushes. With God’s help, it’s carried in a way that brings hope, healing and encouragement to others.
So, today I pray for the Heim family. For Joanne’s husband, Toben and for their very young school-aged daughters, Audrey and Emma. They may have well wishes sent to their mom from Beth Moore and Tiger Woods, but I can guarantee you they would all rather have their wife and mother back. Sweet Jesus, please heal Joanne so that she can tuck those girls in at night, celebrate all their important milestones with them and hold hands with Toben while watching Audrey and Emma marry men of God.
And for the rest of you, who are more like me: A million people may not know to pray for your story, but God knows your name. He knows your hurt and it’s real. I’m praying for that God would be near today. May God bring beauty from ashes.