Today, I am sharing the last part of Joanne’s story. Joanne had three more lessons she shared with me from this terrible season in her life. Reading Part One and Part Two will give you context. Her story is one of triumph and faith through crazy disasters. She is truly one of my heroes. I am so excited to share her story. Be sure to read her story in her own words here.
Remember, Nobody is Right All the Time
Joanne had some very painful interactions with people during this time as well. Another church leader rolled his eyes when she asked for prayer for hope a few months after her Daddy died and said, “Again?” He just didn’t understand the level of sorrow she was experiencing and minimized her pain.
Her biology professor mocked her when she called him. She had talked to him when Ricky died, because she was going to miss the midterm for the course. When she called later to tell him she couldn’t make class, he retorted, “Who died THIS TIME?” She tearfully said it was her father. He never even apologized. He just snorted and hung up.
There is no fixing the death of a loved one, or cancer, or an intractable disease. Left with no tools to fix the problem, many resort to trite sayings or unintentionally painful suggestions. My advice: Don’t hold it against them. Don’t take it serious. Don’t allow anger to seep into your soul because of their words.
More often than not, they are filling an uncomfortable silence with words. We should recognize it for what it is, and let it go. Even if it’s a close friend who should know you better, or a pastor who should be kinder. Bitterness will not make our pain go away.
Remember, God Still Yearns to Connect With Us In Our Pain
Joanne never quit trying to connect with God. Singing and playing worship songs which drew her close. She went to worship conferences where thousands of people joined hearts and voices to praise God. Joanne also journaled. Wrote out her prayers of grief. Penned poems of sorrow and hope.
It is so tempting to believe we have to have all our issues sorted before we come to God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God invites us to come as a mess. This is why Jesus said He didn’t come to heal the healthy, but the sick. It is when we come broken and wounded, sad and disappointed, angry and disappointed, that He can enter in. He can bring peace. He can stir hope. He can restore our spirits.
Like Joanne, we should not disconnect from our God. The ways to connect are different for each of us. Maybe it is reading Scripture. Maybe prayer walks help you. Perhaps you need to take a weekend away in the woods to connect with God through nature. Whatever worked before your hope was stretched thin, keep doing it.
Remember, Keep Giving of Yourself
Even when her heart was aching and drooping into sadness, Joanne kept finding creative ways to serve. She handed out free bottles of water in the summer on the street corner. She participated in free car washes. She served on Sundays in the nursery. Joanne gave of her time to all her friends. She organized lunch giveaways for the homeless. She refused to internalize her life. To stay in the shadows of pain. Instead, she made a choice to continue down the path of being a hope-bringer.
Something almost mystical happens when we give out of emptiness. When there’s nothing left in us, God gives us enough kindness and energy and desire to share. But He gives more than we give away. We find ourselves less empty than we when started. Even though we were empty to start with. We must give even when there is nothing left.
A Hero, Not a Pedestal
My intention here is not to hold up my friend Joanne as the perfect example of how to stay hopeful. There is no perfect model outside Jesus. Joanne still has her bad days a decade later. Some of her whimsy is gone now.
Here is what you should know about Joanne: Her heart is still after God like it was before her world crumbled. Because she is different, her pursuit of God looks different now too. Less child-like. More mature. A bit more tempered by the pain of life. But she is steadfastly choosing to hope in God. Becoming a hope-bringer. We should all do the same.
What lessons have you learned in your own disasters?