Friday, May 20, 2011

When the Doctor says "I'm Sorry..."

"Lead kindly light, amid th' encircling gloom
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on: Keep thou my feet;
I do not ask to see
The distant scene--one step enough for me."
    --John Henry Newman

We’ve been emailing back and forth for months now. She went to the doctor some time ago and the nightmare began. First, one diagnosis then another. Brain tumor. Multiple Sclerosis. Cancer. On and on it went. They put her on a roller coaster that seemed to be endless. After months, tests, rounds of specialists they marked off one terrible disease after another. Yet she still suffers. Her time line may not be as long as she thought it once was. So, taking pills, going to this doctor and that specialist she lives a more constricted life. She has a lot of spunk and is determined to fight all the way to the finish line. She wrote me the other day and I replied at the end of my email: I will be praying for you.

She wrote back days later: “Glad you are praying for me, but what do you pray? What should I pray? I don’t believe God zaps some of us with cancer and strokes and other with car accidents and tornadoes. Does he? Then if he doesn’t choose to move us around like chess pieces, what do I pray for? Healing? Sure wish He would. I find I’m spending more time trying to find meaning in the suffering instead of getting out of it with a miracle healing. I’m trying to find way to use whatever time/years I have left serving others cause that is what I think we are here for. I’m not angry but I’m probably not going to live as long as my Grandmother or my Dad or even maybe my mother but I’m sad for my husband, children and grandchildren who want me around. I’m just confused about how to pray.”

Whew! That’s a lot of questions—most of which I have no answer. Here is what I wrote her back: “I know this must be a frustrating time. How do I pray? 'Lord helps Helen. Be with her. Touch her body. Her spirit.' Maybe you will get healed. Probably not. We’ve had this tornado here. Many people lost their lives. Some say I think God he spared me (for a purpose). What about the couple next door that got blown away? This is random stuff. Chaotic. God stands with us, I think. I think his presence is always with us whether we know it or not. The Spirit of God will give you strength to do whatever you have to do. There are no answers to human suffering. From Job on everybody has raised this question. We just have to slosh along in whatever stuff we have to contend with. I don’t believe we are alone. I love that quotation which I sent you some time ago by Jessica Powers: “I came upon earth’s most amazing knowledge: Someone is hidden in this dark with me.” I think to focus on using the time you have left is just about the best advice for all of us. Hang in there. And—you are prayed for. I think God takes our heart-felt thoughts and understands the deep yearnings of our hearts. So it doesn’t matter what we pray for—or how we say it—like a good parent God understands where we are coming from—or trying to. This may not help—but this is my Benediction for you and for all of us."

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