We have had many sweet friends from our church provide meals for us over the last several weeks – something that has been an enormous help (especially to Chris, because he would be doing all the cooking otherwise) and a special blessing because I get a visitor every few days when I am stuck at home for several days in a row.

One of these friends brought a meal this week, and while here she shared a story of an overhead conversation at church. She was walking upstairs to her Sunday School class as someone was asking Chris how I was doing. He responded that I was doing “okay,” but the person asking interpreted this as I was doing “good.” Chris then reemphasized, “No, she’s okay, but not good.”

My friend said that this little bit of eavesdropping reminded her that too often we don’t really want to hear that someone is not doing great. We want to believe that although trials come, suffering is not necessarily a part of the trials.

The truth is, suffering will come to everyone at some point in life. It comes in various ways and at various levels of intensity, but it does come.

Before I started chemo, we knew from experience with family members who have had cancer that everyone responds to chemo differently. We also knew that there are several different drugs used for chemo, and each has its own set of side effects. Of course, we wanted to believe that I could sail through this with a minimum of difficulties.

And, truthfully, things could be much worse. I do have side effects, and after each treatment there are a few days that I cannot function with the rest of the world. I am nauseous, weak, my legs ache, and I just don’t get out of bed on those days. It’s basically like having the flu (without the fever and chills) every other week. But at the end of the two weeks before my next treatment, I rebound a little and feel much better – only to do it all over again every other Monday morning.

I think we want to believe that suffering doesn’t happen to others because we are afraid – afraid for our friends, and afraid for ourselves should we ever be in their position. We want to believe that God would spare us because we live a good life, we try to serve Him faithfully, or whatever other reason we can come up with.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

God builds our character in times of trouble. We mature, and grow up in Him, when we suffer. I pray daily that I will learn whatever lessons He has for me in this season. I don’t want to squander this time, but I want it to be used for my sanctification and to bring glory to God.

But it is still suffering. There is nothing pleasant about having cancer. So I want to challenge you this week to be brave. Find a friend who needs you, and ask how she is. Really mean it when you ask, and take the time to listen to the answer. You will bless your friend with your compassion. Pray with her, and then follow up the next time you see her. Let her know you really want to know.