Purpose in the Pain
May 26, 2020
“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV 1984).
He died today after a short bout with cancer. I stopped by to share my sorrow with the family. They were gathered in the den, actually fairly cheerful, sharing stories of their dad and husband, glad to be together as a normally scattered family. The wife said, “You know, we have been talking about whether it would be better to die suddenly, being hit by a bus, than the way he died.” One daughter piped in, “I’ll take the bus.” “But really,” the wife continued, “We had time to be together, time we would not have shared, scattered around like we are. We did things that were important.”
When we take care of those who suffer near the end of their lives, we may well think it would be best if God would just take them quickly to spare their suffering and to reduce the constant sadness and heavy work of the caregivers.
But my experience with hundreds of deaths leads me to believe that this wife got it right, more than the daughter. I have seen so many profound and beautiful events occur during the last-days-of-life and caregiving times that I truly believe such struggles are better than a sudden death without the days of caregiving.
I have often had patients come to me with the wish that they could leave for heaven quickly and relieve their loved ones from the burden of their care.
And I often respond, “Why would you deny them the blessing of spending time with you and the privilege of caring for one they love?”
Such times for caregivers are not simply hard; they are character changing. Those who partner with God in caring for one they love become more like Christ by giving themselves in sacrifice for another. Such an incredible blessing cannot be imagined unless one has been there with the only One who can redeem all suffering. But it is real; I have seen it over and over.
And just as it is with the caregiver, it is the same for us when our time for suffering has come. When it is “our time,” we need to settle into the care of our loved ones without feeling guilt for their struggle. We need to allow God to work through our suffering to change their lives just as He worked through His own suffering to change ours.
Let me share in the sufferings of those I love, so that I may also share in Your suffering for the world.