I was 20 when my parents died, and for the first time, I understood that people had problems. Real problems. Life isn’t a Hallmark movie where tears may flow, but everything is wrapped up in a nice, little bow after all is said and done; life hurts and is full of heartbreak and is ugly messy.
It took me a long time before I could drive without fear, and I remember being so sensitive to bad drivers—maybe their parents just died in a car accident, too. Maybe their baby is sick. Maybe their wife is in labor. Maybe their mother can’t remember them.
I’m also the kind of traveler who thinks everyone else is doing the same thing I am. When I’m headed somewhere fun, I assume everyone else on the plane is, too. When I’m exhausted and grumpy headed home, I think everyone else is surely doing the same. When I travel for funerals, I looked around and wonder how many people around me are grieving.
I guess I am selfishly close-minded like that. I assume everyone is going through what I am experiencing. Or maybe I have a hope that people will understand what I’m going through and have a little grace.
This is different. I have known all my life that illness strikes. My parents died suddenly, but I’ve been around sick people. My aunt had cancer for 23 years. A close friend of my sister’s has also had long-term cancer. But this is the first time a friend of mine who is my age has gone through something like this. Since hearing her news, which is inconclusive at best, I have walked around in a haze. I can’t be surprised—I know the statistics of illness—and yet I can’t seem to process what I’ve been told. Maybe that’s because of the uncertainty of the situation?
Instead of walking around wondering who else is sick and giving grace to people because I’m keenly aware in this moment that sickness affects so many, I want to ask people, “Do you know my friend? Did you know she might be sick? Because she’s amazing. Smart. Funny. Beautiful. She loves my baby boy. She laughs at my jokes. She touches lives wherever she goes. You need to know her!” I have a frantic feeling, wanting to scream from the rooftops the unfairness of this situation. But I can’t because it’s not fair for anyone to be sick. As special as my friend is, she is no more so than the next beloved person who falls ill.
We took a 6-pack to her and her husband after finding out the news (un-news? Is it news when you really don’t know anything yet?). I sat on our couch beforehand thinking about her, hoping that we could be an encouragement. My Bible sat nearby, but I couldn’t pick it up. I couldn’t even think of an encouraging passage. Instead, I wanted to pray. Yet my prayers wouldn’t come. I heard my voice say, “God, I just need to be with you right now. I just need you to draw me close. I just need to hang out.” I once told this friend that I wish I could fix her—she said, gently, “I don’t need to be fixed—I just need grace.”
That was me in this moment. I didn’t need perfect words of advice or the perfect Bible passage. I just needed to be reminded of God’s grace. Of his presence and his character—his goodness, his Sovereignty, his tender love. That’s enough for now. And I take great comfort in the fact that when my friend’s un-news turns to news, it will be enough then, too.