By Lisa Copen
Have you ever felt that way? It can be hard to see value in life when you don’t feel productive, but even when we don’t have a list of accomplishments, we are still cherished by God. And you never know how your situation may actually be encouraging someone when you don’t even realize it.
When my grandfather was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, my grandmother basically couldn’t see the need for him to keep living. She was–coldly–ready to move on and felt like he was holding her back. As she complained about him for the umpteenth time I looked her firmly in the eye and spoke my mind.
“Grandma, he may not know what is going on, but he is joyful. Every day, every single person that comes into his room has their day brightened by his joy. They love him. You don’t know what those people may have been going through. A nurse could have been beaten by her spouse last night; an attendant may be losing his own father to this disease but he lives across the country and he can’t be with him. Grandpa may be the only person in their life who makes them smile. You don’t know how God is still using him.”
I am not certain she understood. But even as I said the words, I realized just how true they were. Even while he was suffering and not completely aware of who people were, he radiated joy and passed that on.
I have heard the saying, “It all works out in the end and if it has not worked out, then it is not the end.” Perhaps you have asked, “Why choose to live when I have nothing left to give?” Maybe you wonder if you are of use because of your disabilities, mental health challenges, financial struggles, etc. But whatever it is, these are just your circumstances–not you.
We all have something to give, even though some days we can only give our tears. What? How can crying help someone? Each day I see people who are discouraged and downtrodden who live with physical chronic pain, and even as they share their discouragement, their needs, their depression, others step up and encourage them. Not only do people who woke up feeling useless feel needed, they also have their own sufferings validated.
Yes, inspirational, encouraging videos and words are always welcome, but some days we just need to know that someone else is suffering too and and it is not all rainbows and smiley faces. We are all in this thing called life together. You are always valuable to the Lord, but your willingness to be vulnerable, to share the real you, can make you vessel to reach someone else who feels unneeded, when no one else can.
In 2011, following a discouraging appointment with my rheumatologist and frustrated with the circumstances of my illness, I came home and made a “real” video. Instead of my typical “Latte with Lisa” this one was called “Lisa: Unfiltered“. . . And I cried. If you feel up to seeing a gal fall apart, but still see God in it, you may want to take a listen. It’s not pretty, but it is honest.
To date, this is the highest watched video I have ever done, but even as I pressed that publish button I wondered, “what have I done?” What I had done was just allow people to see me–the real me that gets discouraged sometimes like everyone else. If you ever wonder if your tears can encourage someone else, this video may help you see how that happens.
You may think: Why not end my life if I have nothing left to give? But that’s not true: your life itself is a gift, and there is hope.
Your life has value because you are you. Suicide is never the answer. You don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to have it all together, you don’t need to be happy-go-lucky all the time. God loves you. . . just the way you are.
Lisa Copen has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for nineteen years, and has found purpose in her pain by reaching out to others with chronic illness. Her organization, Rest Ministries, serves those with chronic illness or pain through daily devotionals and other programs.