The uncomfortable grace of suffering

I could hear the underlying despair in the higher than normal pitch of his voice. “I can’t believe it’s been so many months. It’s been long, but also short.” Another friend in the cancer fight alongside his beloved. Time that passes simultaneously quickly and slowly is a side effect of cancer. It is grueling days and weeks and months. It is pain and suffering that linger. It is coveted, glorious days of looking upon the face of someone you cherish beyond words. Life with cancer is slow because of the anguish and fast because of the fear. Time is always running out while dragging endlessly along.

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We had a lengthy day of MRIs and scan review and chemotherapy this past Tuesday. We left with minds full of complicated terminology and new images of Jesse’s brain. His scans look mostly the same as they have with some expected differences around his most recent surgery sites. The tumor does not appear to be growing rapidly everywhere, but there is a place buried deep within Jesse’s brain that we cannot reach with any currently existing form of surgery that needs to be managed. We were presented with two options on Tuesday, and I left feeling as though we had just been asked which ocean of quick sand we would like to attempt to run across. I’ve been struggling since to put all of this into words, to scratch my pen across paper and come out with anything that doesn’t sound like complete gibberish or lead to confusion or despair for anyone on this journey with us.

This suffering; it’s an uncomfortable grace.

It is not the feel good, ‘someone is sacrificing everything for me so I can be happy and free’ grace we like to believe is real. It is real, true grace; the kind of grace that knows grace does not -cannot- exist without the truth that brokenness in this life is here by our own hands, and we are helpless to defeat it on our own. This is the scary grace of refinement and of release, the uncomfortable grace showing us our need for God. It is the grace we so desperately need, and it looks an awful lot like pain and suffering. It is the kind of grace that opens your eyes to the reality that you are limited being made by Unlimited God. It is real grace that acknowledges your brokenness and innate need for care, your lacking of ability, your wronging of the Grace-giver. It is grace that knows God is taking you where you do not long to go, where you cannot venture on your own, to draw out of you what you cannot draw out of yourself. It is the kind that brings about the understanding that the beginning of true grace arrives when you come to the end of yourself. It is found when your human options are suffering. . .or suffering. It is the kind of grace that, when it finds you standing at the edge of two oceans of quick sand wondering which one you will attempt to run across limping while holding the hand of your sick husband and hefting 4 kids on your back, that causes slippery fluid-laced ground to firm up beneath your feet the moment you step out. It is the ‘blood-bought, firm foundation’ kind of grace.

When step out into the great unknown you must, this grace is what reminds you that every treacherous step you take is safe because your unknown is unknown only to you. The Lord will either solidify the ground beneath your feet, or give you wings to fly above it. There is no unsafe, scary, dark, or sinking place when the foundation you stand upon is THE Solid Rock. Our footsteps will not waiver and we will not sink into the miry depths of despair, because we cannot. Our God is too steady, too strong, too unmovable, too capable. The task before us is not about the quick and sinking sand that is decision-making when every outcome is so fraught with possible despair, anyway. It is not about the seemingly impossible task ahead of us (or you). It is not about the grace given to endure and the guidance to make the best decisions we can, even. It is about the Giver of the uncomfortable grace of suffering that leads to the joyful and freeing surrender of weary self.

 

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11

 

Update and Prayer Needs:

-Obviously, we are at a bit of a crossroads. We need to make a decision on a continued treatment path for Jesse in a short time frame. What we do will affect the longevity and quality of his life in years to come. We are not worried. We are not afraid. We are asking, rather simply, that the Lord will help us to just “know” what the right path forward is in this. Like in Isaiah, we are asking for a very clear, “This is the way; walk it.” We know He will not fail to take us right where He wants us. Will you pray this with and over us? Prayer is powerful! We have experienced this truth with such prevalence!

-Since I originally wrote much of this, we’ve learned of a third option that seems promising. There are a lot of things that have to line up for it to work for us, but we trust in this, as in all other options, that God will make the path clear if it is the direction we are supposed to go.

-Thank you for your prayers and your immeasurable kindnesses toward me and my people as this journey lingers on. We could never have expected that so many would still be walking alongside us for such a length of time. We love you all so!

25 thoughts on “The uncomfortable grace of suffering

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  1. Once again, you redirected me, blessed me & reminded me to be grateful. I am praying for direction & peace for you both. If I can do anything else, let Allison know.
    Love in Him,

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  2. Our prayers are continuosly with you, Jesse and your precious children. Praying that those things that must line up for your third option will do so and that great healing will occur. Sending much love.

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  3. Jesse, Ashley and family;
    Y’all are continuously in our thoughts and prayers. We are praying for God to show y’all which way is best for Jesse’s next phase in this journey. We are praying it’s the third option. God Bless!

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  4. First,I want to tell you & your family how sorry I am for all of the suffering. Secondly, thank you for sharing. You really hit home for me. It was good to be reminded of another (better)way to look at stuffering. It’s so easy to focus on how it has control of your life & louse perspective on how God can help in it. I hope you guys don’t have to deal with it for too much longer. When I remember I’ll pray for healing.

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  5. YES 🙏🏻Praying for God’s clear direction and leading for you and your family going forward in the next step of treatment. Thanking God that His path is perfect and that He leads the way. Psalm 138:8 God will fulfill his purpose for you. ❤ Thank you for your openess and vulnerability … know you are held in prayer… 🙌

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  6. Prayers for you both. Prayers for healing, clear direction and the third option path to open up. He has this each and every step!

    Even though I don’t know you, your story, Truth and trust impacts me deeply. Thank you for sharing and being vulnerable.

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  7. Your faith is amazing! I will continue to pray for wisdom and direction as you make these difficult decisions.I am also praying for you to find comfort in His presence. All I can say is, that I’m praying for your family daily. First Peter 5:7.

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  8. Oh, where do I start? I read these entries to know what’s going on now in your lives… to know how to pray, specifically at this part of your journey……..but I find myself knowing our God more fully thru your words; to love you two more and more; and for the treatments God is providing to be the blessed healing to bring Jesse back to the full servant he’s so gifted to continue! You are living the scripture “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”!
    Phil. 1:6

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  9. Ashley and Jesse,
    So thankful we have the same God! Continued prayers that His Spirit flows abundantly over you and through you with peace and full vision of where to journey. Much love to you!
    Holly Wilson

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  10. Ashely,
    A woman, wife, friend, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, you are an incredible Godly woman. We walk beside you, Jesse, and kids through it all. Praying with and for you all.

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  11. Praying for God to light the way as you continue to take each step. We are praying for all of you – strength, perseverance, wisdom, rest, and joy along the way. Your family at Community of Faith is praying too. Big hugs to you from the Shooks.

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  12. I am praying for you and for God to provide a direct guidance of an answer which path to go, that he will make it abundantly clear, and for a miracle to cure this deep seated tumor.

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  13. From time to time, I’ve stumbled upon your posts linked from Facebook and I’m always so impressed with your way with words and your incredible examples of faith in the midst of such a mind-blowingly difficult trial. It brings me a good dose of perspective as a neuroradiologist who reads GBM follow-ups day in and day out. Praying for you guys.

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  14. Prayers going up for Jesse, you and your families. Your continued faith and trust in the Lord God Almighty will carry you through this difficult path that must be walked.

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  15. You guys are so loved by folks at Bay Area Church. I can’t tell you how sharing your journey has impacted me.
    Ashley, you do remind me of grandmother with your unstoppable attitude and passion for God. Your faith is open for all the world to see. Jesse, our openness is such a testimony to your love and faith in God. Thank you for sacrificing your privacy to minister to all of us.

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  16. Praying that God will make it clear as to the direction of the treatment choices you have. I know that His grace will continue to sustain you and His presence will overshadow you.

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  17. I just copied this blog to share with our ladies at Heritage Park Baptist Church as we begin the study of I Peter. I especially was helped by your definition of grace and want to share it. I don’t believe I’ve ever written you before although I’ve been praying for some time. I believe there are lots of lots like me. I read your blog just after reading “Standing Strong in the Storm” a daily email from Open Doors ministry about persecuted Christians. It might be an encouragement to you if you’d want to get on their mailing list.

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  18. 2 Corinthians 12:9

    And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
    Praying!

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  19. Ephesians 3:16-21 is His Word and it is the breath of the words you write here! Praying with you is more of God’s love for you poured out into our hearts that we pray back to Him. Holding on tightly with you, we wholeheartedly seek His ever faithful guidance for you in this time of deep need. May your all in all be strengthened more and more as your reflect His glory in your suffering and as His grace permeates you through and through. In faith, hope and love…

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  20. Praying for complete healing in Jesus name. Praying for peace and comfort for him and all of you. We will continue to pray for God to help y’all in all the decisions you are having to make.
    Love y’all Elizabeth Runge

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  21. Continuing to pray for healing and wisdom to know which option to take. Praying for each of you. Love in Christ.

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