What people need to know to survive a trial: A lesson from Mike and Pam Worley
Sometimes a person responds to bad news with such grace and strength, we think, “I want to know how they did it. Because if I ever face a storm like that, I want to be as strong.”
That’s the way I felt when my friends Mike and Pam Worley learned that Mike had cancer. Pam wrote this on Mike’s Caring Bridge site:
We just got back from meeting with Dr. M getting the results from Mike’s biopsy. I wish the news had been better than what we got, BUT it could be worse! Mike has multiple myeloma. It is a cancer of the plasma in the bone marrow… Chemotherapy will more than likely have to be done.
It could be worse? It’s cancer! Well, that’s probably what you just thought you were supposed to say, and now you’ll lock yourself in a dark room and have a breakdown, right? Wrong. Here’s another post:
We know our God is bigger than any of the trials we go through! We know that we have an unbelievable support group of friends who are mighty prayer warriors! We know who we believe in, and that He will see us through the days and weeks ahead! . . . We will face each day with the strength He provides us and we will carry on. It’s not going to be an easy road but I’m sure that the outcome will make us stronger than ever before!
I doubt seriously this would have been my reaction. If I had felt like communicating at all, it would be to express fear, anger, and disappointment. And truthfully, I would not blame anyone who hears traumatic news from showing those emotions during the shock.
Still, it’s clear that Mike and Pam did not respond typically. I bet they had down days in their journey, but this initial response is important, because it set the tone for them and for the people to whom they witnessed. And Pam tells us in her posts exactly how they did it:
1. They knew God. They did not hear the diagnosis and then decide to seek his presence. They were friends with God before the trouble started.
2. They believed that God is bigger than their trials. Through their relationship with the Father, they were confident in his ability to accomplish his perfect goals … whatever they may be.
3. They trusted in God’s provision and his goodness. I’m pretty sure they were praying for a specific outcome (as they should), but note that Pam says they knew God would “see them through.” She does not say that they were 100% sure that God would take the cancer away. Nobody knows that. But whatever happened to the cancer, Mike and Pam trusted that God would take care of them.
4. They leaned on God’s strength. From day one. We human beings do not have it in us to have such a positive attitude on our own. I don’t think the Worley’s would disagree that their faith and confidence was God’s grace at work in their lives. They got out of the way in spite of their fear and let God work in them and through them.
5. They were realistic about the tough days ahead. No Pollyanna’s here. Courage is not pretending everything is rosy. Courage is saying, “This is going to be hard. God, we look to you to help us through it.”
6. They asked the right questions. Not “why me?” They asked how God would use their circumstances to make them stronger.
I don’t fault anyone for feeling stressed, scared, or even a little angry when their world gets turned upside down. The question is whether you will stay that way, or if you draw close to God, lean on his strength, and learn to rejoice even as you hurt and grieve. Watching Mike and Pam with their unbelievable attitude convinces me that what (and who) you know and believe makes an enormous difference in how you weather the journey. Without God, they might have given in to despair. With God, they showed strength.
With God, they asked the right questions.
Mike and Pam are two of the people Jim writes about in his new book, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), available Jan. 14, 2014, from Leafwood Publishers. The book is about the questions we ask during a trial, and how some are much more helpful than others.