I remember so well the first cancer support group meeting I attended at our community hospital. It was the summer of 1990.
I was a 36-year-old reporter for a York, PA, newspaper and recently had interviewed Mary Flinner, the new group’s facilitator. When I showed up at a support group meeting a few weeks after my story was published, Mary naturally assumed I was visiting the group as a follow-up to my article.
“How sweet that you would come to our meeting,” she said with a big smile.
“Actually, I was diagnosed with colon cancer last month,” I told her as her jaw dropped.
It was an incredible irony.
I remember that I had to talk myself into attending that meeting because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be with a bunch of cancer patients. As introductions were made around the table, I happened to be the most newly diagnosed and the last to introduce myself.
I burst into tears before I could even get out my name.
I felt really silly for falling apart like that, but I had been trying to hold it together in front of everyone else for so long that it seemed good to let down my feelings with others who had “been there, done that.”
Before I retired as a patient advocate, I constantly invited cancer patients and their caregivers to my support group meetings, but often people told me: “I’m not really that depressed that I need to come.”
To which I replied, “Great! I need people there who aren’t depressed to support those who are!”
What life difficulty are you facing or has God already brought you through? Divorce? Addiction? Cancer? Special needs parenting? Relatives with dementia? Abuse? Job loss? Infertility? Grief?
The list of life’s trials is endless…and so is the grace of God to see us through.
“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Don’t waste the pain you’ve encountered by failing to share your experiences with others. The troubles you’ve faced with God’s strength will be a comfort to those facing the same kinds of circumstances.
When the Apostle Paul was down and out, God sent his friend Titus at just the right time to him.
“When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction,
with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.
But God, who encourages those who are discouraged,
encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy.”
2 Corinthians 7:5, 6
I think each day that you and I fit into one of two categories: someone who needs to be encouraged or someone who needs to be an encourager. Which are you today? If it’s the former, ask God to send a “Titus” your way and if it’s the latter, ask God to show you who might need you to step in and be their “Titus.”
I pray that we each see one another–family, friends and even strangers–through the eyes of God. As the beautiful Brandon Heath song below says“give me Your eyes for just one second.”