Reflecting today on an encounter I had in a hospital waiting room. Praising God that my recent eye exam showed that my vision was stable without any significant losses this year. To God be the Glory!!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 – NIV
Hospital waiting rooms provide fertile ground for life lessons. Sitting in the waiting room of an eye clinic that specializes in serious retinal degenerative diseases, I am frequently challenged to just be grateful.
Last week, I found myself sitting in such a waiting room for yet another uncomfortable test in a long series of uncomfortable tests. Having entered the room from another exam area, I searched briefly for an open seat. Since my eyes were dilated, I wore my sunglasses to fight the glare. With my white cane in hand, I tapped over to the empty chair and sat down, readying myself to wait until the technician called my name.
I had paid little attention to the other people in the room and was, therefore, surprised when a young woman, seated to my left, spoke in my direction.
“Ma’am, do you need help getting registered?”
I looked up in surprise, realizing quickly that she thought I had just entered the clinic and had not checked in. Thanking her for her kindness, I explained that I was already registered and had just returned from another testing area. The technician had my name on the list and would be calling soon.
The young woman nodded and offered a warm smile. Her friendly, open manner put me at ease and I smiled back. My curiosity was peaked so I began a conversation.
“Are you here for testing?”
“Well, yes, I am. I actually have a degenerative lung disease that might have a connection to the eye, so they are running some tests on my eyes.”
The door now opened, we began to exchange information freely. She explained that she actually had two different genetic disorders with the lung disease being the more serious. Every six months, she traveled from her home in the corn fields of Indiana to monitor the disease progression. Thankfully, the disease had not yet impacted her life significantly and the testing was just monitoring at this point. Looking at her pleasant, youthful face that held such a warn and friendly smile, I asked her age.
“I’m 27, but it’s OK. I figure I could get run over by a truck before this thing gets me. I’ll be OK.”
My face must have shown my concern for she quickly changed the subject and asked about me. Responding to her prompts, I shared a bit of my battle with vision loss. Her gaze was so attentive as she listened. Her face, so young and unblemished, conveyed her concern as she took my words in. There was depth in this young woman, a deep well of loving kindness.
“That must be so hard,” she said quietly.
I shrugged. “You just go on and live your life. Just do the things you want to do and doon’t let it slow you down. Just live your life and don’t let it stop you. And somehow God will work it all out for good.”
Her eyes met mine and she nodded appreciatively. She knew the words were meant for her as much as they were about my story.
The technician’s voice rang out across the crowded little waiting room. She rose in response and paused before my chair. Looking down at me, she must have read my nametag for she smiled and said, “Good luck, Anita.” And with that, she was gone.
I sat there, tears welling up in my eyes, thinking of this beautiful young woman, gifted with so much to offer the world, yet hampered by the weight of some life changing disease that could strike her down at any point. She was only 27 years old. Blinking away tears, I remembered another young woman who had sat in another such waiting room after receiving the horrific news that she was going blind. I had been 33.
That’s when the phrase I have carried around with me for years popped into my mind once again. “Everybody has something.”
Everybody has hard things in their life. Everyone encounters trouble. In fact, this life is full of trouble. Jesus even said so (John 16:33).
Our problems may be different, but they are trials nonetheless. Some have health problems that alter their lives in dramatic ways. Others deal with financial struggles, a troubled child, the care of an aging parent. Some people are burdened by job stresses, while others deal with job losses. Some feel the agony of broken relationships. Others find it challenging to escape the tragedies of their past. Whatever the source, “Everybody has something.”
It’s just that sometimes, we don’t see one another’s struggles. Some struggles are obvious, like the white cane of blindness. Others are well hidden and we so easily assume that another’s life must just be so easy.
“She doesn’t know what it’s like to live with ___.”
“He doesn’t know what it’s like to be me.”
Did you catch the self pity in that line of thought? Why is it so easy for us to accept the lie that we are the only ones living with adversity? Why is it easier to feel sorry for yourself than to notice the pain in the people around you?
The truth is we are all travelers on a difficult journey, all wandering down rocky paths. No one is immune from suffering. It is part of living in this fallen and sinful world.
But all is not lost. We are not alone in our troubles. God walks these challenging roads with us and He can make our rough places smooth. He can take our hard thing, and mold it, shape it, transform it for good. Yes, we will have trouble, but Jesus told is to take heart, for He had overcome the world (John 16:33). “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 – NIV).
Those eye appointments are always hard for me. Listening to the opthamologist’s assessment of my vision, I am forced to consider the reality of my situation, the likely possibilities of my future. Yet, as I sat there in that clinic, my mind was on that young woman and the possible obstacles of her life journey. Our conversation together reminded me of how God has been so faithful to see me through the storms of vision loss. Not only has He seen me through the trials, but He has blessed me with incredible beauty in my life, my family, my friends, my work, my church, my travels. Through it all, God has been so gracious.
It is my prayer that God would bless that kind young woman and turn her tragedy into triumph. I don’t even know her name, but God knows.
He knows your name too. He knows your story. And He is more than capable of transforming your troubles. As you place your trust in Him, God is willing and able to take your hard thing and work it for good. For I know full well, that our Gracious God can bring beauty out of ashes.
…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…
Isaiah 61:3 – NIV
Gracious Lord, we thank You for Your loving Presence in our lives. You are always with us. Whatever adversity befalls us, You are by our side, seeing us through. You will never leave us nor forsake us. Help us to trust You, Lord, with all our troubles, knowing that You can work all things together for our ultimate good, that You alone can create beauty out of ashes.