During the past two years, I've traveled internationally quite extensively, focused on issues related to extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, and war. I met many heroes, men, and women serving sacrificially on behalf of people who are suffering. I was inspired by these heroes, but undone and drained by the amount of suffering I saw. As 2009 came to a close, I knew I had to take a break from the pain. I had to give my mind time to process what I'd seen. I had to allow my heart to be healed by the balm of peace and beauty. I had to withdraw temporarily from global relationships in order to sink more deeply into the grounding of intimate relationships with close friends and family.
But here's what happened during the last two months in my inner circle of beloved people: A major surgery proved more serious and demanding than anticipated, heralding a long, slow recovery. Mistreatment of a relatively minor health issue led to a life-threatening complication for a previously strong and healthy man. A young couple desperately wanting a baby miscarried twins. My mother-in-law slid rapidly into a grave illness; sadly, she died just two weeks ago. How sad and intense this recent era has been.
And then just last night I received an e-mail from one of my dearest friends, requesting prayer because her rare and serious disease that had been in remission has returned with a vengeance. My friend is also my mentor, the person God used more than anyone else to open my mind and heart to the needs of God's global Kingdom. She lives thousands of miles away from me, but the last time she became gravely ill, she came to live with me for two months while she received treatment. Will she be coming back again? Will she again get so sick that she has to leave her husband and young children in order to access necessary medical care?
I've always been an undisciplined and inconsistent writer. I'm trying to become a more productive writer by meeting daily with a friend who shares that goal. My new writing partner is chronicling the recent death of her nineteen-year-old daughter. It has been a profound experience to sit across the table from her and listen as she reads aloud passages that invite me into both her horrific grief and her undeniable experience of a loving God in the midst of that grief. Processing life in the presence of a friend who knows intimately the most painful places in life, as I am doing now, gives me valuable perspective -- no simple answers, to be sure, but always the reminder that God is present in these difficult times.
And so as I ponder the reality of my dear friend's disease, I turn to that God who is present, and I beg for divine intervention. For protection. For healing. For brilliant doctors. For medical insight. For new medications. For whatever kind of support my friend needs from her local community of faith. For emotional and spiritual strength as she faces physical pain.
And to those of you who feel so led, I invite you to join me in holding my friend Dee in the healing presence of our very present God. I'll keep you posted as I receive regular updates from her.
Lynne Hybels is the advocate for global engagement at Willow Creek Community Church and author of Nice Girls Don't Change the World .