What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you? I have been thinking about that in the last week. I have been thinking about significant down times in my life – and wondering if they have been the worst things that have ever happened to me:
- I spent many seasons in my childhood on crutches due to surgeries, torn muscles, torn ligaments and other physical difficulties. I was born with a bone disease that was addressed through multiple surgeries. I learned that I was less than, I learned poor self-esteem, and struggled physically throughout my childhood due to the disease and injuries. I struggled physically for many years and emotionally for years past that. But that is not the worst thing that ever happened to me. I learned that there is providence in my struggles. I found hope in knowing that I am wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139). God is in the midst of my struggles. My childhood of physical difficulties developed a perseverance within me to face adversity. It developed a sense of neediness upon God – that even though things are tough now, I am still part of a bigger story that God is writing. This perseverance and neediness on God were perfect when I heard the three scariest words in the. English language – “You have cancer.” I was ready for brain surgery because I had been through many surgeries before. I persevered through chemotherapy because I have experience in persevering through difficult times.
- My parents divorced during my freshman year of college. I can’t say that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was a significant thing that happened to me. It was a punch in the gut and revealed the truth about the dysfunctional nature of the system of my family of origin. I knew the brokenness of my family in the deepest part of my being. My mom filed for divorce, making the brokenness of my family much clearer. It is something that knocked me on my butt during my freshman year of college. It broke down one of the foundational systems in my young life. However, it wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me. God used the brokenness I felt through my parent’s divorce to push me toward a life of service and work on a national platform of boy’s and men’s ministry. I wouldn’t be the person I am without my parent’s divorce. I have learned grace, perseverance, trust, authenticity and humility through the years of wrestling with the brokenness of my family of origin.
- I can’t say that being diagnosed and living with cancer over the last 9.5 years has been the worst thing that has happened to me in my life. Cancer is awful and disruptive. My cancer is in my brain. It is high priced real estate to be dealing with. Awful. I have spent the summer living in Philly while my family continues their lives 100 miles away. Disruptive. Although my cancer story has its share of awfulness and disruption, it is only a small part of my story. Over the last decade I learned to lean on the One who was not surprised at my cancer diagnosis. I learned to trust and release important things to the One who sustained me over the last decade. I learned generosity and gratefulness as we have been overwhelmingly surrounded by love through our trial. We had three wonderful, healthy kids since I was diagnosed with cancer. We intentionally named them Emmanuella (God is with us), Nathanael (gift of God) and Gabriel (the Lord is our strength).
Not to quickly paint over the pain and heartbreak I have experienced in my life, but when I look back I see that the most difficult times were also the most formative times. They were the times that God revealed himself the most to me. They were the times where my spirituality, personality and character were most formed.