I have two close friends with cancer, skin and brain, both “aggressive.”
Two other friends died of cancer this year.
I have a friend with a little boy in NICU; he’s been there for weeks and likely will be for weeks more.
I have friends grieving—mourning a wife, a brother, sisters, parents.
I have friends, well educated and well connected, who can’t find work.
I have friends in marriages so bad they’d rather be at work than at home.
I have friends who can’t have children and don’t qualify for adoption.
I have friends drowning in loneliness, friends plagued by addictions, friends swallowed by self-love.
I looked at Justin today and said, “What I’m about to say is true and not true, okay?” He nodded and grinned because when I say that what comes out of my mouth next is always ridiculous.
I said, “Sometimes, it would be nice to be eaten by lions.”
You know, get it over quick, die with dignity and conviction, win a VIP ticket to Heaven with line-skipping privileges. I wish that for some of my hurting friends. And, of course, I don’t wish it either.
Old Testament scholars break the lament Psalms into four parts, which I’ll summarize here in my own, not-very-scholarly words:
1. God, things are bad.
2. Save us.
3. We know you can.
4. We know you will.
Consider my list of hurting friends my “1. God, things are bad.”
Every Wednesday my friend Janine and I meet at Chick-fil-a. We stake out a booth near the playground, send our children to play, and (when the occasion calls for it) pour all our problems on the shiny table, heaping our unhappinesses into one shared pile. This week, only fifteen minutes in we looked at our mess and said together, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” It usually takes at least an hour to get there.
We get there when we run out of good advice, when words sound hollow, when we throw up our hands, palms open…
2. Save us.
When my brother died I had this feeling that nothing was ever going to be good again. I figured I’d have kids but that I’d be sad all the time because my kids didn’t know their uncle. I thought I’d lost my one friend, and I’d never have another again. I thought I’d wake up every morning wishing I could go back to sleep.
What I’m about to say is true and not true, okay?
My brother dying was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I am different because of it—better, stronger, wiser, more compassionate, less calculating, more in love with my husband, more present. I threw security to the wind and moved to Brooklyn to tell people about Jesus and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I can’t imagine ever doing it if Bobby hadn’t died. Also, I am not afraid of death—not a bit—and that’s because of Bobby, too.
I look back and I know that even when things looked coffee black, God had the power to save me.
3. I know you can.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
4. I know you will.