The following story was written by Lynn Eib, author of Peace in the Face of Cancer. It was originally posted on her blog.
I remember so well the first cancer support group meeting I attended at our community hospital. It was the summer of 1990. I was a reporter for a local newspaper and recently had interviewed Mary, the new group’s facilitator. When I showed up at a support group meeting just eight weeks after my story ran, Mary naturally assumed I was visiting the group as a follow-up to my published article.
“How sweet that you would come to our meeting,” she said with a big smile.
“Actually, I was diagnosed with colon cancer last month,” I told her as her jaw dropped.
It was an incredible irony. I had to talk myself into attending that meeting because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be with a bunch of people with cancer. As introductions were made around the table, I happened to be the most newly diagnosed and the last to introduce myself.
I burst into tears before I could even get out my name.
I felt really silly for falling apart like that, but I had been trying to hold it together in front of everyone else for so long that it seemed good to let down my feelings with others who had “been there, done that.”
After my friend Ken was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2002, he believed for a while that he wouldn’t need things like support groups.
“I assumed that because of my (spiritual) faith I wouldn’t need other forms of support such as groups, family counseling and massage therapy, but I was dead wrong,” Ken explains.
Many years later and still cancer-free, Ken urges newly diagnosed patients not to try and go it alone.
“Circle the wagons—family, friends, co-workers and anyone else who can and will be an available asset in your battle,” he says. “You can never have too many assets!”
Before I retired as a patient advocate, I always was inviting cancer patients and their caregivers to my support group meetings* (see note at end) and I heard a lot of reasons why they didn’t attend. Often people told me “I’m not really that depressed that I need to come.”
To which I replied, “I need people there who aren’t depressed to support those who are!”
I believe there are two reasons for people to attend support groups for whatever problem they face—either to be encouraged or to be an encourager. And I’m pretty sure you could fit into one of those categories!
What life difficulty are you facing or has God already brought you through? Divorce? Addiction? Weight issues? Prison? Special needs child? Relatives with dementia? Abuse? Loss of a job? Infertility? Grief?
The list of life’s trials is endless…and so is the grace of God to see us through.
“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Don’t waste the pain you’ve encountered by failing to share your experiences with others. The troubles you’ve faced with God’s strength will be a comfort to those facing the same kinds of circumstances.
When the Apostle Paul was down and out, God sent his friend Titus at just the right time to him.
“When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy.” 2 Corinthians 7:5, 6
God knows exactly what you need to deal with today’s discouragement. Ask Him to bring a “Titus” (or two) into your life to encourage you. (He might even direct you to a support group with a bunch of Tituses!). Or ask how you can be the Titus-encourager someone else needs to meet.
I pray that we each see one another through the eyes of God–the God who encourages those who are discouraged. Yes, Lord, “give me your eyes for just one second.”