Back when I started my blog, I recommended the excellent book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris, who are both Christ-centered young men of character and vision. In the years since the book’s publication, the brothers have gone to college, pursued career paths, buried their dear mother Sono, and married—Alex to Courtney and Brett to Ana.
Alex graduated from Harvard Law School and is an associate at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott. Brett is now the co-owner of theyoungwriter.com, which provides ongoing mentorship and support for young writers. (Check out their free Young Writers Guidebook.)
A few years ago, Brett’s wife Ana was diagnosed with late stage Lyme Disease. Life has been extremely difficult for them, but I’ve been touched by their faith in Jesus and commitment to each other throughout their trials.
Here’s more about Ana’s story:
“I was newly married and pursuing a career in ballet when my life took a devastating turn. I fell severely ill and was diagnosed with late stage Lyme Disease in 2012. In early 2017, I discovered that toxic mold was also playing a big role in my illness. I became so sensitized to mold that my dear husband and I were forced to leave our home and belongings in search of a place with cleaner air for me to breathe. Our search landed us in the middle of the desert, living in a tent with next to no camping experience. After six months of camping and strict mold avoidance, I recovered so much of my health that we were able to move into an apartment in South Dakota. I’m continuing to heal in leaps and bounds.”
You can read a longer version of her story on her blog, where she writes regularly. Ana recently shared this post, and I was very touched by it and asked her permission to share it here. —Randy Alcorn
As you all know, these last two months have been a bit more difficult for me health-wise. One night, when I was feeling particularly sad and discouraged I confided in Brett, “I’m scared that God isn’t going to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ when I get to Heaven. I feel like I’m not doing anything. I’m too sick to serve God and people. I’m not contributing anything to the kingdom.”
This wasn’t the first time I’ve battled such discouragement. It was even worse when I was wasting away in bed for months that turned into years. I was so sick that I couldn’t handle most contact with other human beings. At times all I could think about was how to get relief from the pain. I certainly wasn’t serving anyone. Worse than that, my sickness was a huge drain on my husband and family. I felt like I was a burden and my life was pointless.
I think most chronic illness sufferers can relate. And I think even healthy people can feel limited and useless for other reasons. So, I wanted to share with you a story from the Bible that has reassured me during those painful moments of discouragement.
And he [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” —Mark 12:41-44
Take heart friends, you may have less energy and health to work with but you can still give what little you can. And in the eyes of Jesus, your feeble expression of gratitude to your caregivers can be more significant than someone else’s founding a non-profit. Just give what you have to give.
The sick mom heating up canned soup for her family in the microwave may be giving more than the mom who is cooking an all organic meal from scratch.
The sick wife who takes three hours to write a simple birthday card in between waves of pain may be giving more than the healthy wife who organizes a big birthday party.
The sick friend who replies to a text message when her head is pounding and she’s trying not to vomit may be giving more than the healthy one who invites a friend over for dinner.
The sick believer who fights to concentrate enough to say a two sentence prayer for a person in need may be giving more than the healthy ones who are leading bible studies and starting ministries.
The people we love may not always realize this, but we can rest assured that Christ is watching and he knows. He knows our hearts. He knows that what a suffering person has to give looks different than what a healthy person has to give.
And He’s a God who counts two copper coins a priceless gift.
Check out Ana’s blog, where she offers a free PDF of her favorite resources for suffering souls.
If you’d like to read more from Randy related to the subject of suffering, see his book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God (a specially focused condensation of If God Is Good, which also includes additional material). Many people have also handed out the If God Is Good booklets.