Courage in suffering

I n her book, How Can I Find You, God? Marjorie Holmes tells the story of Barbie Hertel. Barbie underwent operation after operation that involved intense pain and suffering. The letters Barbie wrote to her family and friends are epics of faith and courage.

When she was fifteen she wrote: “In my room I prayed, ‘God, forgive my anger at you and my discouragement. I know it’s wrong, but I’m desperate. I give up fighting AGAINST having it, and fighting with you OVER it. I don’t understand it, but I accept it. Here is my life; do whatever you want to with it.’”

At sixteen, after unsuccessful surgery, she wrote: “I was disappointed that the surgery failed, frustrated that I was sick again, and angry that I was born that way with no hope of ever changing it. But finally I was able to pray, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.”

Barbie was almost nineteen when she wrote her final letter. She had hoped to attend college but now realized that God might have other plans for her. The letter read: “I am not afraid to die. If that is his ministry for me, then I am willing . . . I am totally, completely his to do with as he chooses.” Such courage as this in the face of pain and suffering, the impact of such gallantry, cannot be measured. Into all hearts like this God can pour courage and faith beyond human imagination. And with him beside us we are sufficient for anything; we are more than conquerors.

It was Helen Howland Prommel who wrote:

I walked alone—or I thought I did—

The day was dark, the sun was hid,

A wild wind lashed against the shore

And beat against my face and tore

At coat and dress. The lightening split

The day apart and frightened it

And frightened me till I cried out—

But rude wind carried off my shout—

And then I heard a Voice I knew

That said, “Have faith, I walk with you.”

And though the storm raged as before

I walked with faith and peace once more.

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.

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2013-10-10 digital edition

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