The amazing artist Karen Sperling posted a quote from Jerry Seinfeld yesterday that resonated with me. As with many Seinfeld quotes, it's funny because it's true. In a recent interview, Seinfeld talked about suffering. He said, "I don't mind suffering. You suffer in all things — work, relationships, whatever else you do … Unless you're eating ice cream, you're suffering."
That's a slight exaggeration, but you get the point. None of us can escape suffering. Not even Jesus could. He even asked his Father if there was any way he could get out of it. If he got a "no," what hope do we have of skating by?
My suffering, even now, is minimal compared to many people that I know, my brothers and sisters in the cancer community in particular. I'm writing this post for them and their loved ones, who suffer alongside them. There are a few who are especially close to me. You know who you are. Even with all of my difficulties, I would not trade places with you. My heart breaks for you, and you are always on my mind and in my prayers.
I think of one friend who is stage 4 and going through chemo right now. He suffers every waking moment, but keeps a smile on his face. This post is for him. I think of another who has had one terrible thing after another happen in her life, and it never seems to stop. This post is for her. I think of my dad, who suffers from constant, pounding headaches all the time. This post is for him. I think of many in my support group who have it so much worse than I do. This post is for them, and many others, too numerous to mention. What all of these dear people know about suffering, I hope to never learn. But I'm sure I will.
I know that my lack of pain and symptoms will not last, unless a miracle cure is in the works. Suffering is on the horizon. And I know that my cancer has been harder on my loved ones than it's been on me. Their suffering is all too real.
While searching through scripture verses about suffering, I came across the verse from Isaiah that's pictured in the graphic above:
Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. (Isaiah 30:20)
Adversity for food and suffering for drink. Personally, I'd rather eat ice cream! But unfortunately, none of us can subsist on a diet of ice cream alone, as much as I'd like to try. Eventually, we get adversity for food, and suffering for drink. While I don't really feel that I've suffered all that much, I certainly have experienced adversity. If you've been reading this blog, you know all about it.
This month is especially hard. My work schedule does not let up until September, in spite of everything I have to endure. Also, some very close friends of ours are moving out of town in a matter of days. That will be very hard for me.
And at the end of this month, I'll get my next PSA test that could very well prove that my current treatment is no longer working. If that happens, it's very bad news. I don't intend to pursue conventional treatment after that point. I expected to get another year out of this treatment. If the expected time I got out of it is cut in half, it means one thing; My cancer is on the move.
So all of that is hanging over my head this August. I don't think stress qualifies as suffering, and stress is mostly what I'm feeling this month. But I expect to know sorrow this month. I already have known it. Adversity will be my food and sorrow will be my drink. I just hope I can have some ice cream for dessert.
But the second part of that verse is just as true as the first. In the midst of adversity and suffering, God is with me to teach me. He uses suffering as a teaching tool. Why does he do that? It's because, most of the time, he can't get through to us when things are going well. Ask a teacher how easy it is to teach when all of the kids in class are eating ice cream. It's when adversity hits that he can get our attention. It's the whole God's 2 By 4 thing.
I haven't seen my teacher with my own eyes yet, but he is very close. The things that he is teaching me should have been obvious long ago. But he had to take away my ice cream to get me to see them. And one day, I will see him with my own eyes.
This is my advice to all who suffer, to all who know adversity. You may not think God understands or cares about your suffering, but he does. He took on human form and suffered unimaginable horror. So he knows pain, anguish, heartbreak, and adversity as well as anyone ever has. So let him teach you in the midst of your suffering. He is right there with you. He wants to show himself to you, if you'll let him.
In three days, I will mark the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. It's been a year of adversity, but also a year of great blessing. The things I have learned and the love I have felt as a direct result of my adversity are so great that I would not change my diagnosis if it meant I had to give up all that I've gained. I love having my teacher with me all the time, teaching me what he wants me to learn. I can't wait to see him with my own eyes. And when I do, I know that he will have some incredible ice cream waiting for me. #waroncancer