A few months back, my mom and I celebrated a special occasion over a delicious dinner. If you know my mother, you fully understand the fact that she has never met a stranger! And so, as God ordained it, we struck up a conversation with one of the restaurant managers. One thing led to another, and this man shared his heavy heart… a burden of love due to the sudden and unexpected downturn of his dear friend’s child’s health. At only one year old, this child had begun having inexplicable and relentless seizures.
As I sat and listened, I thought to myself, I know that life all too well. That fear. The invading panic. The feelings of powerlessness to act or fix, either as the parent or as the supportive friend. Feeling frozen in a moment while life all around you appears to whiz past at lightening speed.
In the moments that followed, I was able to share our story, how quickly life can transition from a fairy tale to a nightmare…. how you go from studying restaurant menus in order to select the location of your next date night to analyzing seizure medications and medical protocols, memorizing and reciting them even in your sleep. In addition to relating to the pain, I was able to offer some hope… that our son had overcome his seizures and had even been able to escape the clutches of those numbing medications. I also shared my blog and email, in hopes that, if this family wanted to talk to someone who has walked this path, they could reach out to us.
I walked away from that special dinner with more than a full stomach. I came home with a full heart. Of course, I hate that anyone, and I mean anyone, would ever have to endure the heartache of watching his or her precious loved one suffer, battle a chronic illness, or leave their arms all too soon.
Nevertheless, as the days accumulate and years pass, beauty and joy spring forth when we realize there certainly can be good that comes from the bad. There was a time when I never could have fathomed that ANYTHING good could come from Warren’s tragic death at 19 days old or John’s ongoing struggles. I’m sure many of you resonate with this as I know you have your own trials, broken hearts or unfulfilled dreams. And yet to honor my sons and to know their lives were/are not in vain— that the pain wasn’t for naught, that God can still be glorified— I have desperately needed to know good can come from the bad. That death does not have the final say. That life does ultimately win out.
Therefore, I started a simple Word document several years ago entitled “Good from the Bad.” A “rainy day” document, so to speak – something I could pull up when the doubts flooded and fresh tears stung. When all the ground gained was forgotten. Something that could speak the truth that God has been working different aspects and pieces of our story together for good, that beauty does come from ashes, that the sting of death is overcome by Christ’s ultimate victory and promise to restore and redeem all.
In this document, I simply copy and paste excerpts from encouraging emails, comments on this blog, and stories like this one from the restaurant… anything that speaks to God’s hand at work in our family not only despite of but also because of the pain.
The very pain and loss I thought would kill me have been used to encourage and to comfort others.
I hope to encourage you today to consider starting your own “Good from the Bad” document or journal. Reflect on experiences, circumstances, or people God has brought across your path, and record the ways God has encouraged you by using your pain and dark places to minister to others. As you get into this habit, I imagine you will begin to see more and more good come from a seemingly "bad" story. And in that, I pray we will perceive how we truly are a part of something bigger than ourselves, a part of His Kingdom that will triumph. Your pain may be heavy, powerful even. I’m right there with you. But, also like me, I am confident your story is more powerful.
“Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”