[guestpost]We all struggle (or have struggled) with suffering, and when it comes to real suffering, my friend Michele Cushatt, guest-posting today, understands the struggle firsthand. Without giving away her story (which you can read in her books and watch on my interviews), Michele knows what it’s like to lose her footing and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. She also knows what it’s like to cry out to God for grace and discover the miracle of His presence and His purpose right here, right now.
—Colleen Swindoll Thompson[/guestpost]
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” —Jeremiah 31:25 NIV Recently, I found out a dear friend is in hospice. After years of fighting breast cancer, she now faces the imminent end of her life. My heart hurts.
Over the years of our friendship, I’ve watched her face her foe with joy and unwavering belief in God. Her spirit—even in her real moments of struggle—gave me courage when I faced my own life-and-death battle. It gives me strength still.
And yet today, my heart feels only grief.
No strength. No confidence. No courage, spiritual or otherwise. Only a sadness that seeps into my bones and a weariness that will not be relieved. I know a bit of her suffering. I know the kind of physical pain that makes a person wish for death.
I understand the exhaustion of soul that can’t stand the thought of another five minutes of life.
Today, she endures that—and so much more.
So tonight, I think about her, hovering at the edge of death. And to tell you the truth, it exhausts me.
I’m tired of this broken and fragile life. I’m tired of the suffering that seems determined to torture us. I’m tired of the lack of relief, the absence of answers. Today, as seems to happen more often than not, I feel like a desperate King David, weeping tears that refuse comfort:
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm. —Psalm 55:4–8 NIV
It’s not that I don’t believe in God. I do—with all my heart. But this human spirit is not indomitable. Like a towel washed too many times, I feel I’ve grown too thin.
In an attempt to pull myself from my despair, I opened my computer to check e-mail. Waiting for me, like a hand-delivered gift, was a message from Chris, an online friend who lives in Germany.
He, too, knows a thing or two about physical suffering. Having endured multiple life-threatening illnesses requiring brutal and constant treatment, he experiences long stretches of days during which he cannot pull his 29-year-old self out of bed.
Not easy for a man accustomed to working at a fast-paced corporate job, running marathons, and enjoying an adventurous life.
Without knowing my sadness, he’d sent me the following words:
To inspire (used non-reflexively), from the Latin inspirare, has of course the stem spir in it. It is, very literally, to give or put spirit into someone. To inspire someone is way more than making him or her happy or amazed or even making him or her feel good. It is to lend the person spirit when he or she is short. And of course because of the incorporeal nature of both air and spirit, the act of inhaling also became known as inspiration. In that sense too: it is like mechanical ventilation for a soul that’s lost its resolve for a moment.
After that he told me that my hard journey inspires his own, even when I don’t realize it.
What he didn’t know, couldn’t know, is that with a few words dashed off in an e-mail, Chris offered mechanical ventilation in a moment when I could no longer inhale any hope for myself.
More than that, however, my friend’s words reminded me of another gift of inspiration:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. —Romans 5:3–5 NIV
In a world that flings around the word inspiration without a thought, we’ve been offered the only real gift of inspiration humankind could ever hope for: the Holy Spirit.
The presence of God exhaling hope into us.
God has breathed into you and me the breath of life, so that when hard moments come and we no longer have the strength to inhale on our own, we can trust He’ll renew our weary souls.
Inhale. Exhale. Grief may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
To get a description of Michele’s transforming book I Am, and the beautiful daily reminder cards connected with each section, visit www.iambook.net. To connect with and learn more about Michele, visit michelecushatt.com.