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  • Writer's pictureJim Donaher

Encouragement Despite Grief

I learned today that a good friend is nearing the end of her battle with terminal brain cancer. She is a sweet, kind, helpful woman, a devout Catholic, a servant's heart and the energy of a ten-year-old. She has the wide-eyed innocence to believe the good in everyone, even the ones who clearly demonstrate something less than good.

She was diagnosed about a year ago, and I only found out she was ill when one of our friends reached out to her just to say hi. She gave me a heads-up, and though I am not one for making phone calls, I made one, then a second one, to pray with her. I'm so glad I did that, and so sorry I didn't do it more. She seemed to be comforted and cheered by it.

Today, the same friend who's been staying in touch found out that she was in a coma and that her time is likely very close.

Along with sadness, I immediately felt guilt. I didn't reach out again after spoke with her five or six weeks ago. I thought about it several times but failed to make it happen. Why do I feel like I've failed? Because, in a strictly human sense, I have.

Because I feel like, if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was me who was sick, she wouldn't fail. She would have sent cards, as I intended to do. If there was a book for me to read (or one she'd written) that she thought I should read, she would have sent it. She would have called and prayed for me. She would have prayed for me daily. She would have made sure I felt encouraged and loved.

This is the earthbound me thinking that I am doing or not doing what matters. When in real life, God has all things, including my friend, in His perfect control. Praying for her doesn't alert God to something about which he was unaware. He has my friend in the palm of His hand, and there is no safer or better place to be than that.

Even as she lies in the hospital, waiting for whatever comes next, Jesus is with her, comforting and reassuring her. She has no need to fear.

Her loving husband, who is struggling mightily with this impending loss, is not alone either. Jesus has His arm around him, assuring Him that his beloved wife will be fine and will wait for Him in heaven.

Her loving son, traveling from down south in a hurry, given the situation, is undoubtedly going through some very difficult emotions. An only child, he is loved so much by his mom and dad, and now Mom is apparently going home with the Lord.

The Lord has a plan for all of us, including this little family currently undergoing a devastating loss. We don't always understand what it is. We struggle to find the good in our circumstances. Sometimes we even feel like God let us down.

He is used to these reactions. He knows our limitations even better than we do. But He also knows what lies in store for those who love Him. And He is sure that when we find ourselves in that place, at that time, surrounded by His love and the love of all who have gone before us, we will understand and agree, that His plan is perfect.

When we trust God and truly let our problems become His problems, our burdens lighten, our hope increases, and our joy can grow.

I'm really glad I started writing this today. I was despondent when I started, feeling helpless and like I had missed an opportunity to do more.

But writing this made me remember God's promises - that He would never leave us, that He loves us, that He will save us and bring us to heaven when our time on earth is over.

These are some of the bases for our hope despite the sad times and difficulties we encounter in our lives. To the degree that we can see our struggles as preparation for a future in a perfect paradise where we will live in peace and joy eternally, we can fight through what the apostle Paul called, "these light and momentary troubles..."

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

-2 Corinthians 4:17

God bless you.

Jim Donaher is an author and blogger from Massachusetts. He recently published his first book, "Call Him, He's Home: A Regular Person's Guide to Prayer", now available on Amazon. Click on the title to take a look.

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