What We Wouldn’t Know

A friend of mine stepped out of her skin last week, right out of a body worn down by 17 years of tumors and treatments.

She was beautiful, and cancer is an evil mockery of creation. But here’s the thing – she wouldn’t have been who she was without it.

Every day my friend chose joy, some days easily and some days more like a desperate wrestling match. But she wouldn’t have known the value of joy if she hadn’t felt the lure of hopelessness.

Isn’t it true that the light always shines brightest against the darkest backdrop?

Courage is most courageous when the fear is strongest.

Hope is greatest when it defies the deepest despair.

Redemption is most obvious where stories are the hardest.

I don’t believe God caused my friend’s cancer. He didn’t cause my mom’s cancer, or the deaths of the children of several dear friends. He didn’t cause my miscarriages, or the difficult events that led us away from our ministry in Papua New Guinea, or my daughter’s journey through deep depression last year. All of these things were meant by the enemy of our souls for our destruction. But there’s no question in my mind that all of these things passed through His hands. He didn’t stop them. Not because He’s powerless or cruel, and not even because He wanted to test us to see if we’d be faithful. Simply because He wanted us to know Him in ways we wouldn’t otherwise.

How could we know Him as the Healer if we didn’t know how brokenness and suffering feel?

How could we see His restoration without first experiencing loss?

Would we recognize His beauty without having seen ugliness?

On this side of eternity our vision is dim, and we wouldn’t have the ability to understand that He is Light if He didn’t stand in contrast to the dark.

We wouldn’t know His intimate with-ness, His grief alongside us, if we never needed to hold onto Him for dear life.

And somehow in the way only He can, God holds every terrifying diagnosis, every breathless loss, every destructive choice, every imploded relationship, every shadow that chases our hearts. He takes all of it, steals it from the enemy who would use these things as weapons against us, and He reorients them into the very things that set us free to know Him more deeply.

He is a God of miracles, and the biggest miracle of all is His glory shining against impossible darkness.

There’s already glory pouring out around the raw edges of my friend’s story. Hundreds are choosing joy every day because of her example, and at least one person decided right there during the memorial service to begin following Jesus.

And my friend? No more time-dimmed sight for her! Our hope is her reality. She sees Him in His full radiance, and Joy Himself is holding her in hands scarred with evidence of His forever victory over darkness.

No more wondering for her. Just knowing and being known.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” ~1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)


  1. Adrienne
    May 14, 2018

    Thank you…that’s honestly all I can say. I think I shall print this and read it every day till the truth sinks in so deep it pushes out all the lies that constantly try to make themselves at home in my heart.

  2. Aimee
    May 14, 2018

    Beautifully written. She will be missed for sure but she’s been promoted!

  3. Julie
    May 15, 2018

    Oh Beth, I’m crying. Thank you for putting into words what lives deeply in so many of our hearts. The beautiful, mysterious answer (partial answer this side of Eternity but nonetheless an answer) to the heart-wrenching questions of why God allows suffering of any kind. Closeness, intimacy, first-hand knowledge of our Savior who was so familiar with suffering on our behalf – who “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Amen, amen, amen, Friend!

  4. Terry Wallick
    May 16, 2018

    Thank you for this lovely post. I attended the memorial service you mentioned. I am her uncle. I’m positive she would approve that you shifted the emphasis off her and onto her Savior and Lord. Her beauty was a reflection of His beauty; her strength came from Him, and she chose His joy so that it could flow through her to bless others. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” Heb. 12:2a

    • Beth
      May 16, 2018

      Thank you for sharing this, Terry. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. She was (and still is!) truly beautiful.

  5. Melanie Newton
    May 19, 2018

    Thanks for sharing! Remember you often in my prayers! Please remember me!

  6. Becky Kania
    May 21, 2018

    “and Joy Himself is holding her”. This brings me so much comfort to know that Heather is in no more pain but experiencing true Joy wrapped in her Saviors arms. She is my sister and selfishly I don’t want to do life without her but I know God had used her in a mighty way and continues to do so even after her passing. Thank you for such an encouraging article in such a difficult season of my life and my family’s

    • Beth
      May 21, 2018

      Becky, I know you and Heather were really close. My sister and I are close, too, and seeing those pictures of you two together made my heart ache. My husband and I are praying for you and your family as you grieve and rejoice at the same time. Much love to you.

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