Jane’s alumni magazine from Mount St. Joseph University arrived today. It contains a special tribute to Lauren Hill, the young woman who recently lost her battle with a rare form of brain cancer and used her platform to raise awareness and offer hope to others.
The disease is called “diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma” (DIPG). Through her efforts, Lauren was able to raise 1.5 million dollars for The Cure Starts Now. The Cure Starts Now supports research for childhood cancers, and the money Lauren raised will be used specifically for DIPG.
In the course of her campaign, Lauren was featured in a story by Sports Illustrated, appeared on a Wheaties box, was named one of the country’s most inspirational women by Glamour magazine, and had her jersey displayed by the NCAA in their national office lobby before this year’s tournaments. She appeared on “The View”, ESPN, and in USA Today, and People Magazine.
In the alumni article Lauren is quoted as saying, “I’m spreading awareness on a level that’s never been spread before” – “I really hope its’ going to bring a change to the world. Being able to have this opportunity is all I’ve wanted and prayed for.”
These last words struck me. They are understandable, coming from someone who knew she had a terminal disease. Lauren was thankful for the ability she had to help find a cure for her disease so others might someday survive. But there is also a sense in which these words are so counter-cultural, they take me by surprise. Our society quickly becomes self-absorbed in its trials, and doesn’t usually think of a terminal illness as an opportunity.
Yet, because kingdom people trust God to take care of what comes after this life, they can focus on whatever He might call them to do here and now, regardless of the circumstances. This does not mean we should think for a moment trusting God relieves us of the pain and heartache associated with a terminal disease. Although I do not know Lauren Hill or her family personally, I imagine they have passed through many dark valleys. If the thought of a young woman’s life being cut so short seems tragic to us, then is must be incomprehensible to those who loved her.
But when God is on our side, we can look for an opportunity in everything. We do so, not because we have been taught to think positively, but rather because we are confident God can bring good out of anything. Perhaps you are familiar with Paul’s words in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God can work through our pain, but ordinarily only when we become His willing vessels. An opportunity is not a certainty. It is a vehicle through which God works. He is capable and willing if we are humble and open.
People like Lauren Hill inspire me because they remind me not to become discouraged if God allows me to experience trials in the process of following His Son Jesus. In fact, the notion He might somehow use something unwanted in my life as a means of blessing others ought to motivate me. I hope your life is free of tragedy. And we must remember God uses our blessings to bless others too. In every case, good or bad, God is working.
How do you view your circumstances?