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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Laughter through Tears

We walked into the quiet room. Her shaky hand clutched my sweaty palm. Red-rimmed eyes briefly glanced up from the cheerfully colored chairs. Flower-covered tissue boxes dotted the landscape.

While my mother and I sat with joined hands, we wished we were anywhere else. But this meeting was important to us—we wanted to hear how others coped with the “C” word.

“Welcome to the cancer support group,” announced the bubbly group leader. Stiff smiles were carved on faces in response.

One woman had pancreatic cancer. Stomach cancer afflicted a 25-year-old man. Mom had recently been diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer. Other patients whispered their names but didn’t share much.

During the meeting, we all grieved at how cancer robs patients and caregivers of freedom and joy.

The young family facing pancreatic cancer wanted to visit Disney World but felt imprisoned by a morphine pump.

Mom and I wanted to travel to see family but we were concerned about being 200 miles from her doctor.

We felt trapped—straying too far from the medical team wasn’t an option.

The group leader disagreed. She asked about the desires of each patient and gently pointed out that life continues beyond the doctor’s door. After the meeting, the leader scheduled a doctor’s appointment in Orlando so the young family could enjoy a trip to Disney. A physician in North Carolina received Mom’s records so that we could travel there without worry.

The 25-year-old man’s attitude proved the most positive and contagious. Cancer had not been kind to his family—his stomach cancer had returned after months of silence and his mother had passed away from cancer years earlier. Despite this sad news, he smiled and laughed during the meeting. His outlook echoed the words of King Solomon: “A time to cry and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, NLT). Cancer is hard on the family and the patient. But he challenged our little group to laugh daily and enjoy life by living today without worrying about the future.

God opened my eyes that night. I realized that while cancer was robbing my mother of energy and her hair, I was the one stealing her laughter and freedom by clinging tightly to a rigid schedule and worrying about the future. I wanted her to stay home all day and sleep. Having fun was off limits.

But Mom had other plans. After our first meeting, she decided to follow Jesus’ declaration: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34, NLT). She met two wonderful ladies through church. They drank coffee and ate lunch together, and laughed at silly jokes many afternoons. Mom stopped worrying about the future and started to enjoy each day God gave her. She turned the heavy-lifting over to God.

The next month when we returned to the support group, smiles had replaced tears. The pancreatic cancer patient had gone to Disney with her family and beautiful memories were made.

Mom and I had traveled to see family—we laughed and told old stories. Driving home we attracted stares from many drivers as Mom frequently stuck her bald head out of the window. Our worry-free laughter sounded better than any music.

God wants us to enjoy our families and our lives this side of heaven. He used that 25-year-old cancer patient to show me that true joy is found when we appreciate each day with family as a gift from Him and we leave our burdens at His feet.

Maybe you’ve recently received devastating health or financial news, or a tragedy has struck your family. It’s hard to not worry about the future when life is spinning fast. But my prayer is that you will find freedom and joy when you release your worries to Jesus.

Copyright © 2017 Karen Tyner, used with permission.

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