Called To Suffering

kara1A dear friend of mine passed away last night. When I woke up this morning, this was not the day I had in mind. I expected the usual short update and quick prayer for her and her family. Instead, I got the email I’d known was coming for weeks, but still couldn’t process right away.

Kara has finally gone home to meet Jesus.

It may seem ridiculous to some that I’m grieving the loss of someone I have never met, but believe me when I tell you that Kara meant a great deal to me. Her anointing to speak into the lives of others is, I think, even stronger than she knew at times. So much so that today, I feel a twinge of jealousy. I want to be wrapped in the arms of a loving Father rather than sitting on the other side of the river sad and grieving. It’s been a long time since I lost someone I deeply loved, so the process feels fresh all over today.

kara3

Kara’s death is like reading the last chapter of a great book. The finale of her life has impacted me greatly, but I am also grateful for her story. Today I am swallowed in grief for myself, Kara’s husband and her four kids, but I’m also overcome with joy. Kara had to leave this party early but I’m willing to bet she’s enjoying herself with Jesus at the next one.

Kara had been writing on her blog and her books well before she caught the attention of the media. But last fall, she got more than she bargained for when she wrote an open letter to Brittany Maynard, a young wife considering suicide due to a rare form of brain cancer. She wrote from her heart with a personal honesty that surprised me.

“Brittany, your life matters, your story matters, and your suffering matters. …Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”

kara4That’s the dirty little secret that Kara wanted to share: The argument for ending suffering through suicide falls apart when we let go of the idea that we are not supposed to suffer. The tough truth is, guys, we are not promised a happy life. We are not entitled to easy. We are instead promised relationship. We are promised intimacy beyond comprehension if we are willing to seek it out. As Kara put it once, “I will be met with new grace, new abiding, new joy, and new surrender. I will have a more tender love to share, a more sincere story to tell, a more immediate desire for those I love to know the true love of my heart. The loves that are many, but especially the loves- the big Jesus love that makes all this peace possible.”

Talking to my mom a few weeks ago, she told me her secret to living with a kidney disease that often makes the smallest tasks impossible: “Every day, I just remember the promises spoken over me and realize that they aren’t fulfilled yet, so I must not be ready to die.”  So my mom, like Kara, lives every day fully expecting the promises of God to be completed, even when every circumstance screams otherwise. “It’s a daily decision to live. I don’t see how people can do it without knowing Jesus. If you don’t have something greater than yourself, what’s stopping you?”

kara1Abraham was also given a promise by God that he would see a new nation of Israel come from his line. He never saw it realized while he was alive, but he lived believing in that promise. As human beings, freedom from suffering is not the civil right that many argue it is. We are never promised life without pain. As Cary Elwes so eloquently puts it, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

​I’m not saying Christians are called to suffer all the time, but sometimes we are. The key is to embrace the hurt where we can and use our suffering in a positive way. ​Sometimes just being is enough to inspire someone else, other times we have to push through something to prove it can be done, that we can come out the other side a stronger person.

And sometimes, we die.

To me, that’s the gift.