I felt compelled to write a post dedicated to a unique group of friends. A group I feel so blessed to be a part of. It started with a wonderful woman named Laura, who suffered a miscarriage late last year. It was her third miscarriage in a relatively short span of time, and a physically demanding one at that. Friends rallied around her, and offered what help they could. Her journey was a difficult one, and involved repeated trips to the emergency room and extended stays in the hospital. To unite all of those who were looking for updates to direct their prayers, her closest friend started a Facebook group. We didn’t have a name at first, but when Laura and her husband Chris were led to the name Lolek for their son, a name for the group emerged: Lolek’s Friends. Unfortunately, God was only just getting warmed up, and Laura struggled with continual complications. And as the year came to a close, a mysterious thing happened. Well, many mysterious things. Every member of this group was slammed with a cross. And we’re talking big heavy crosses. For us it was Adam’s diagnosis. The others began facing similar difficult challenges: major health problems, losses of loved ones, family discord and upheaval, severe financial strain, problems with small children, and even bigger problems with teenaged children... just to name a few. Someone suggested that Satan was attacking our group. I wondered if perhaps God had intended these events all along, but He had mercifully kept them on hold until we had found each other to lend critical spiritual support. Whatever it was, we held onto each other and prayed for each other over the internet. It’s amazing to me that a few of us haven’t even met. We are separated by distance and circumstance. But, united in Lolek’s spirit, we have proven to be loyal friends to each other.
This leads me to a revelation I had recently regarding suffering. It’s no secret that Adam and I have been suffering. My strong English husband prefers to suffer in silence, and bears the hardships of his treatment with grace. I’m not so good at that. I throw it all out there and beg people to read it! I share and share and share until I get it all out. Oh, sure, I cry alone sometimes. But, I prefer to share it with others. I’m also not so good at looking at the positive. Adam is always quick to point out that everyone is struggling with something, and his problem isn’t all that bad. I tend to wallow in self-pity. I can’t help it… I’m a Fagan. The Fagans are great at creating dysfunctional nuclear families, chronic depression, melodramatics and infinite pessimism. As much as I try to fight it, at the end of the day the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But, I am trying, really I am.
Lately, I’ve been begging the Lord for some sort of good news. I’ve been dragging this family through each day, and I’m getting really tired. I keep asking, “Why”? Why all this hardship? Why all this struggling? Well, God threw me that bone I’d been asking for, and led me to a book on my bookshelf. As I read Mary of Nazareth yesterday, I was renewed. I feel so much more at peace now, and I think I understand struggling so much better. I have spent a lot of time thinking about Mary and her sorrows. Boy, that woman had it tough. And God loved her more than any other woman in the history of the world. So if God loved her the most, why did He make her struggle so? Is it because suffering is His greatest gift? When we suffer, we tend to think more about Him. We pray, we beg for mercy, we beg for good outcomes, and we humbly ask that He hears us and comforts us. Unfortunately, when things are going swimmingly, we tend to forget Him. I don’t mean to say that if life is good, you can’t be a devoted follower of Christ. It’s just a lot harder. We might thank Him for all our blessings, but we don’t lay in His arms, drawing strength from His loving embrace. We don’t talk to Him as much, and we don’t ask for things. I’ve always looked at Christian families who seem to have so much. Lots of healthy children, with no chronic illnesses whatsoever. Loads of square footage, and beautiful decorations to surround themselves with. Nice cars and regular holidays. And the temptation is to think, “Wow, God must really be pleased with them.” But, wasn’t he pleased with Mary? So then, why didn’t He give Mary better transport to
? She rode a donkey, ladies and gentlemen. If you’ve ever been 9 months pregnant, can you imagine what a week on a donkey must have been like? I can’t even bear thinking about it. And what about Jesus’s delivery? God could have made sure there was a comfortable room somewhere in Bethlehem for Mary to labor in. Instead Mary found herself in a cave where animals were kept. We all have cute little manger scenes that we display at Christmas, but when you think about it, the reality must have been quite different. Here she was in labor for the first time, no mother or midwife to assist her, lying on the floor of a cave with straw poking her in the back, and piles of donkey poo all over the place. She had a clean house back in Bethlehem , with piles of fresh new linens for the baby. But, God made sure she had only the barest trappings when His Son was born. And chances are Mary struggled with this, as any of us would have. And she was the Most Blessed. This was God’s greatest gift to her. The families who seem to have so much aren’t the blessed ones. It’s the ones who find themselves wanting. The ones who struggle with enormous crosses and bring them before God. I don’t believe anymore that Satan was attacking Lolek’s Friends. And I don’t think God just happened to load all those crosses on us for no reason. I think He was blessing this group. He was pleased, and to show us how pleased He was, he dumped a massive bucket-full of trials onto us. We have all suffered and struggled so far this year, and we look forward to a reprieve. We’ve all said to each other, “Just wait… blessings will come… God has great things in store for you.” But, guess what. THIS is the blessing. Suffering is the gift He reserves for those with whom He is most pleased. And I’m going to start taking it as a compliment. Nazareth