I heard from an old woman in Washington State and a young man in Rwanda. Their stories of suffering are different: early widowhood and aging vs. genocide horror. But each gives voice to Jesus filling emptiness and making it shine.
An Old Woman
I received a letter from a woman who mentored me when I was in college. She thanked me for my Christmas card, and she wrote, “Just had to let you know you are in my prayers. How the years FLY by! And I get slower and slower. But old age is precious for continued wonderful experiencing of our Lord’s loving faithfulness and his daily enabling strength and grace.”
I tried to read this to my husband and stopped because of my tears. I love this woman, and in her frailty, she mentors me still. She lets me know that though her body is wasting away, as mine will, I need not fear: she finds the losses, indignities, and empty spaces becoming places where she meets Jesus again. And as He fills her empty places, she is comforted and she shines out hope to me.
A Young Man
I also read a book called “My Father, Maker of the Trees: How I Survived the Rwandan Genocide,” by Eric Irivuzumugabe (with Tracey. D. Lawrence).
Eric was sixteen in 1994 when the Hutu tribe attacked his tribe, the Tutsis, and slaughtered over one million people in a one-hundred day rampage. Eric escaped by hiding high in a Cyprus tree for sixteen days. Under him, he heard the screams as his fellow villagers and more than seventy members of his family were hunted and butchered.
Not long after he climbed down from the tree, Eric became a Christian, and the book tells the story of his slow healing journey, including his questions and anger, his night terrors, his agony in being an orphan, his choice to forgive, and his experiences of God’s love and joy.
As he grew closer to God, a passion for the orphans of the genocide began to burn in him: “My desire was to change the course of history through the orphans of Rwanda, to raise up the least likely ones,” he writes (p. 130).
He shared this passion with his pastor, who said, “Eric, this passion you have is from God. . . You are able to help these orphans because you have been an orphan yourself.”
Eric writes, “The wisdom of Pastor Mukwiza helped me to see the deficits in my life, namely being an orphan genocide survivor, as a strength, because I could fully understand the struggles which gave me the ability to minister to others. This was a resource and a blessing I had not considered before. . .
. . . It’s been hard to see at times, but I’m beginning to grasp that God can do much more through my weaknesses than my strengths . . . When I offer up my lack, whether it is money, wisdom, or time, there is much more room for God to make up the difference. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3)” (pp.130-131).
This testimony humbles me and fills me with strong hope.
May we take heart that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1:5).
And that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Rom 8:38-39).
These friends – an old woman and young man – say it is so. Amen.If you have a story about God turning suffering into hope, I would love to hear it. You may leave a ‘comment’ after this post.
Photo of Cypress Trees by Evelyn Simak. Used by permission from Wikimedia Commons.