I wrote at the end of December that my new word for this year is ENDURE. I heard God speak it to me so clearly, but I confess it brought both anticipation and fear. What do I think about when I hear the word endure? My mind immediately flits to suffering. It thinks about children enduring situations like human trafficking. It thinks about the parents having to endure the loss of a child or loved one. It thinks about enduring ridicule and shame. It thinks about my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ and the soldiers who are enduring loneliness because they are taking a stand for freedom. I do not think these thoughts were God’s intent when He lovingly chose this word for me.
While suffering, of course, occurs – “In this world you will have trouble . . .” in John 16:33 – we also have the greatest hope – “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This verse in its entirety is posted on my Scripture wall beside my desk in my library office. It reminds me that storms happen, but we are to look forward to the rainbows as well. As Christians, we have the greatest and most beautiful hope – that this life is not all there is. When life gets hard, we cling to the hope that we’ll see sunshine again.
I recently stumbled across a Facebook page called Bryson’s Battle. I didn’t know Bryson, but I learned about his battle with the big C word, CANCER. Bryson was a 3 year old boy who was recently diagnosed with leukemia then passed away last week. As I write about him, I get a little teary-eyed because of what this precious child had to endure. I prayed for him and his family every single day. I still pray for his mother, father, and two sisters. During the time I was following his journey, I truly believed God would heal him. I believed and prayed along with 55,000 other people who found his group. He created a sort of community in his short lifetime – something some people never accomplish in theirs. We posted prayers, sent words of encouragement, responded to his mother’s updates, and added him to our prayer lists daily. God answered our prayers, just in a way we didn’t expect. In one of the last posts before his death, Bryson’s mother posted that Bryson’s scans came back revealing his body was rid of all cancer. He defeated leukemia after all. We knew Bryson wouldn’t make it about a week prior to that post. He caught an extremely rare fungal infection that ultimately resulted in his death. While still believing in a God who performs miracles every day, we began to pray instead for peace for his family and loved ones. I still pray this prayer regularly.
I remember a few years ago when I read about a little two-year old girl named Layla Grace who passed away after fighting a rare form of childhood cancer. At the time, my own child was two. My heart was broken so much for that family, but God revealed a new perspective to me during that time. So many people were praying for that baby girl. So many people saw God work in the lives of her loved ones. Though her story did not turn out the way I wished it would’ve, I remember thinking of how many lives that little one influenced, of how many people who may not otherwise pray were praying because of her. Bryson, too, helped to build a community of believers. I believe that somehow Bryson knows about all of us who prayed and hoped. I believe he knows what an impact his short life had on so many – had on me, too.
I am learning to love the word ENDURE. With it comes such promise! I cling to that promise when I feel like I can’t get through another 5 minutes of my really hard workouts. I cling to that promise when my children are being extra wild. I cling to that promise when my husband and I are having a disagreement or when our bank account is running low but we still have a week until payday. I cling to that promise when my “school son” is spilling his life problems to me and my heart breaks for him once again. And I cling to that promise every time I think about Bryson and Layla Grace’s stories. This life is not all there is. While thunderstorms are loud and sometimes frightening, they also magnify God’s Presence, grace, and power. We have to endure the thunderstorm to see the rainbow.