“To possess true beauty, we must be willing to suffer . . . if Christ Himself was perfected through His sufferings, why would I believe that God would not do the same with me? Women who are stunningly beautiful are women who have had their hearts enlarged by suffering.”
(Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul” by John and Stasi Eldredge)
Four years ago she buried her husband of fifty plus years. She never had children. I've never asked if they chose not to or could not, but the longing in her eyes while she watches my girls play betrays the hurt. She walks with a four point cane, permanently hunched from the damage osteoporosis has wreaked in her body. Emphesema batters her lungs. Yet, her doctor asks her, "How do you keep smiling?"
She waited a long time to discover her passion in life. Several battles in a mental hospital fighting the ravaging depression that haunted her. Finally, at age forty she began to live for her dreams. Dream degree, dream husband, miracle child. But the depression continues to haunt. And the dream husband turned out to be addictive and abusive and fed her mental illness. She hangs on, however, to see her daughter emerge into a confident young woman.
Weariness is her life. The ex-pat life and homeschooling her girls came to an abrupt end with mysterious exhaustion and illness. When I first meet her, she can barely hold her head up from fatigue. She surrenders her children's education to a school and begins to concentrate on getting better. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) will not be her downfall. Four years down the road, she has a vibrant ministry and has brought her girls back home for school. There are days weariness creeps in, but it does not win.
Alone again, she prepares to go to worship. She's been married, in name, for a long time. But he left the marriage years ago. He has sought the beds of who knows how many others. Her friends advise her to leave. But she won't. No, she can't. She resolves that she made promises in marriage, and she believes God will honor those promises. A year goes by. Five years. Ten. Now, twenty years I have known her. She still believes that someday her husband will hear the call of the Lord. Until then, she waits and she hopes and she prays and she allows Jesus to be her comfort.
Multiple sclerosis is her enemy. She received the diagnosis just as she was bringing her third child into the world. Could she manage with three toddlers and MS? Manage she did. Then her sister was diagnosed with leukemia. Years of battling, and her sister lost the earthly battle. A reprieve? No, the MS was still there. But her children grew and became adults and gave her grandchildren she adored. Then another cancer diagnosis. This time her own. This battle would take another year. She would not have enough to conquer it. But she never lost her hope.
Five women. Different ages. Different circumstances. Different reasons for coming into my life (or me into theirs). One thing in common. They are without a doubt among the most beautiful women I know. Their beauty was tested in the crucible of suffering, and when you look at them you just see Jesus. You see their hope. You see their lifeline. You see His beauty staring back at you.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4
Father, thank you for the examples of the lovely friends mentioned above. I thank you for how they have ministered to me time and time again in the very midst of their suffering. Your face is beautiful shining through theirs. Lord, I want to show you forth. In the face of the crucible that you will use to make yourself known, may I be found as worthy as these. In Jesus Name....Amen.
Our hostess this week is Nina at Mama's Little Treasures. Please visit and be blessed.