Today is an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today, my dear friend was hit by a car while she was crossing a crosswalk. Wait, let me clarify … not just my dear friend, but my “sister of the heart.” Do you know what I mean? The kind of friendship that goes beyond blood and experience, something deep-rooted, precious, steady and true. Her life hung in the balance a year ago today.
My husband and I were away when it happened and I first heard the news while checking my messages when we were in the Chicago airport, waiting for our flight home. Let me tell you, that plane couldn’t fly fast enough. When we landed we dropped our bags at home and went directly to Mass General to see her. Her injuries were extremely severe and we were told that it was a miracle that she had survived the accident. Although she was stabilized, her situation continued to be life-threatening, the breadth of the damage was horrifying, and her husband and three children were understandably devastated.
After the initial shock, our little group of girlfriends and our church pulled together. We knew that in the months to come there would be much to be done: children to care for, laundry, meals, driving her family back and forth to Boston, sitting with her at the hospital, and praying. Lots of praying.
Today she is healing. A year later, a long road still remains. On this anniversary day I’ve been reflecting, looking back over the past year. The memories are painful at times, but with each remembrance I have been struck by God’s activity, how clear and present He has been, and also struck by the things I have learned by watching Him and watching Him in my friend.
I’ve learned that God’s sweetness is larger than pain, His faithfulness bigger than suffering.
When I think of my friend, two words come to mind: sweetness and beauty. My friend was in terrible pain. Her future was uncertain. Her life, changed forever. Fear and anger could have consumed her, and yet amidst her suffering, the countenance of our Lord shone through her like the blaze of the sun on a hot summer day. Patience, loveliness of spirit, hope, joy – these things characterized my friend as she lay in her hospital bed those long months. Terrible pain, loss of mobility, separation from family, multiple surgeries, medical mishaps – my friend demonstrated, without words, her rock-steady belief that none of these things can ever separate her from the love of God.
I’ve learned that even when circumstances are awful, all can be well in the soul.
While lying in her hospital bed, my friend was in full-time ministry. With her firm faith and sweet spirit, she ministered to her friends and family who were suffering with her, she ministered to the medical staff who served her, she ministered to her physical therapists and to the people who brought her meals each day. I doubt that it was deliberate; her behavior was the overflow of the Spirit. It was a lovely thing to watch, and spoke louder than words that God is good and God is faithful.
Do I make her out to be perfect? I don’t want to do that, either. First, because she would totally hate it! And second, I consider her all the more courageous because she had her times of doubt and sorrow and anger and yet every time, she turned back to what she knows is true.
I’ve learned that the definition of a happy ending is dependent upon one’s perspective.
I’ve thought many times about what my ideal happy ending would be for this story. A full recovery? Financial restitution? Selective memory loss for her and for her family to remove the trauma of what they’ve experienced? One thing’s for sure – there’s no going back. This experience is now part of her story, and part of the stories of all who love her. But on this topic, God makes some amazing promises:
Psalm 34:10 – The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God promises that we who seek Him will lack no good thing, and that He’s working out all things for good. Yum. I’m just letting those beauties sink into my heart right now. And just take a look at the rest of Romans 8! (It’s pretty big so I’ve noted the text at the bottom of this post.) Oh boy, get ready to read some knock-your-socks off promises of God!
No matter what our story, no matter what we have suffered or are currently suffering, God is good and He is enough.
And here is our response in the midst of that suffering:
Habakkuk 3:17-18 – Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
That is what I watched my friend do, and through her example, I am learning to do the same.
Over the past year we’ve praised God for many things – for her survival, for His providence, and for each little milestone of healing – successful surgeries, first day sitting up, first day in a wheelchair, first steps, first day home. There have been many things to celebrate.
So on this anniversary day I am continuing the celebration. First, my friend and I celebrated with a fabulous lunch together, chocolate truffles for dessert, and some serious girlfriend time. But I’m not done celebrating. Right now I am celebrating God’s goodness amidst adversity, celebrating His faithfulness, celebrating the things that He has taught us and celebrating the life of my dear friend, one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.
Romans 8:28, 31-32, 35, 37-39
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.