Ever hit a joy roadblock?
What do we do when life disappoints? When our bodies break down or relationships fail? Where is God when bad things happen to good people? These are tough questions.
Sometimes we run into what feels like a joy roadblock. It can be hard to see past it. Our life’s journey might feel like we’re on a long a detour, like we’re going in the wrong direction, like somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turn. When our circumstances seem to conspire against us, we might begin to feel a little lost. We look around for a guide, someone who knows the way back to our old life, or who knows the path to a new, better place.
Sara Frankl must have felt that way. Her life took an unexpected turn which led her down a road not many would choose to travel:
Before the accident and the disease, before the hospital and the steroids, before the blog and the walker and the pup, Sara Frankl was a girl who loved life and lived it to the fullest. She loved writing and leading worship at church, waterskiing and scrapbooking, spoiling her nieces and nephews, and eating Chinese food.
The most unexpected thing about Sara’s life was not that immunosuppression, chronic pain, and failing health would lead to her early death, at age 38. The most miraculous thing about Sara’s life did not come in the form of an amazing medical discovery, though many prayed for that. The most surprising thing about Sara’s life was not that a homebound writer could create strong bonds of friendship over the internet and build a community with people she had never met.
The most stunning fact about Sara’s life was that she made the best of a very, very bad situation. During her pain-ridden life, and after her excruciating death, the questions so many people were left with were: How did she do it? How could she find the good in her hard life? How in the world could someone in so much pain choose joy?
My amazing friend Mary had the distinct honor of calling Sara a close friend. And after her passing, Sara’s family asked Mary to give the gift of Sara’s life and words to the world through a book called Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts (available January 5, on Amazon.com). The story has been told so beautifully—you simply cannot pass up the chance of getting to know Sara through Mary’s eyes.
When Sara realized poor health was her new normal, she looked around for a guide and found Jesus. Instead of finding the way back to her old life, she walked a path to a new, better place. Here are just a few of Sara’s observations about surrendering her dreams and trusting in the Lord’s new, difficult plan for her (from pg. 90 of Choosing Joy):
I do tell God what I think would be lovely for my life, but I also tell Him that I am fully open to whatever He needs from me. I don’t think prayer is just about changing my circumstances, although sometimes it does…It’s also about changing my heart, aligning my heart with his, and asking Him to give me a heart that would rather serve Him than serve my own desires.
I would love to wake up and never have pain again. I would love to open my windows and sit on my patio or go for a walk or swim in a lake. But I don’t want those things if they don’t serve Him
Some are healed because that miracle will spur some on to faith. Some are not healed because that suffering will help others in some way. I’m not big enough to know which should be true for me. I trust God to make that decision.
If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, consider this one: Choose Joy. And if you don’t know how to do that, you will love reading the story of someone who did. Everything Sara wrote about makes sense to me, but I still don’t know how she got to be so good at finding God’s best in the mess.
I don’t know how Sara learned to choose joy in spite of overwhelming pain, but I am thankful that she did. And I am thankful that she wrote about choosing joy. And I am thankful that Mary collected so many of Sara’s words and carefully composed this beautiful tribute. But Sara would say Choose Joy isn’t a tribute to her. Sara Frankl would say that her story is a tribute to God, because all of the glory belongs to Him. Here is a short video about Sara (if the video does not load, please refresh your browser).
Here’s to all of us, learning better how to Choose Joy in 2016!
Image Copyright: rfoxfoto / 123RF Stock Photo