When You Don’t Know How to Help
A devotional by Jessica Brodie
Sometimes when tragedy hits someone you care about, you struggle with how to love them well in the midst of it—especially when there is little you can do. Have you been there before?
A week before Christmas, my amazing and precious niece Kendall, who just turned nine, complained about a bellyache as she fell asleep. Her parents (my husband’s younger brother, Beav, and his wife, Brandy) felt a sizeable hard lump on Kendall’s stomach, just below her sternum, that hurt when they pushed on it.
When they took her to the doctor the next morning, scans discovered their worst fear: it was a massive tumor coming off her kidney.
Beav said it felt like a cold shock ripping through his body.
“In that moment, my entire life changed,” he shared.
As days passed, a biopsy revealed it was a neuroblastoma, an aggressive, fast-growing cancerous tumor on her kidney that was so large it was pushing her spine over. Kendall went through one round of chemo and then the next (with a little break to celebrate Christmas and her birthday in-between). Currently she’s on pause, waiting to begin round three, and a stem cell collection was done yesterday.
The best news is the cancer has not spread beyond the kidney, even though it is what’s called MYCN positive and is a more aggressive mutation of the disease. She’s responding extraordinarily well to treatment so far, getting outstanding care at one of the best pediatric oncology centers in the nation (Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston), and prognosis is positive.
But it’s also incredibly hard—for her, for her parents, and for everyone else in her world. Kendall is the middle child, with an older sister who is eleven and a younger sister who turns two this May, so the diagnosis has caused major upheaval and lengthy hospital stays, with local relatives and friends doing lots of heavy lifting when it comes to childcare and transportation. And the whole situation is terrifying with what feel like hundreds of unknowns…What could happen? What will long-term effects look like?
Family, friends, and acquaintances have been showering the family with well-wishes and other expressions of support. Last week, my husband and I attended an event in honor of Kendall at Jack Brown’s, Columbia, to support a charity called Happy Wheels, which brings brand new books and toys to approximately 400 children weekly at all three children's hospitals in South Carolina. Each child gets to pick out one toy or book of their choice every week for the duration of their admission. They get to keep the gifts and take them home.
All of this is good, touching—thoughtful gestures of love and support to, in some small way, support the care provided to Kendall and kids like her and let them know they are not alone and not forgotten.
But … what else can we do? For me, that’s perhaps the hardest part of all of this—knowing my sweet niece, the fierce firecracker who’s had my heart since her birth, is going through this and there is absolutely nothing I can do to make it better or take it away from her.
For those of us in the family who are Christians, surrounding her with prayer is the only thing we really can do. And so we pray… that God equip her medical team with the skills and knowledge to treat her well, that God enable the medicine to shrink and eventually dissolve her tumor, that she and her parents feel peace, joy, and comfort even on the hardest of days, that she experience a full and complete healing that not only draws her closer to God but also somehow glorifies His mighty name.
We also look for ways to pitch in and help when necessary, whatever that looks like.
That is what we as Christians are called to do. Jesus tells us in John 13:35 (NIV), “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
He says we are to care for each other intimately and lovingly, as if we are caring for the Lord himself, whether that person is sick, in need of clothing, or in prison (Matthew 25:36-40).
Other Scriptures echo this, such as Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
My church is praying for Kendall, as are the churches of a host of friends and family members, including Kendall’s own church. Together as one voice, we lift her up to the Lord, the “great physician” (Luke 5:31), who has the power to do all things.
If you are struggling with illness, or if you have a loved one who is, know you are not alone. This broken world is far from perfect, but one day we will all be together in a place no disease can touch. That place is Heaven. Until then, let’s love one another, care for each other, and pray with all our hearts to the One who made the stars.
Let’s Pray: Lord, please be with Kendall and with all people who are struggling with illness. Help them feel Your love every step of the way. And help us to love them well in Your holy name. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning journalist, author, blogger, editor, writing coach, and devotional writer with thousands of articles to her name.
Since 2010, she has served as the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, which has won 123 journalism awards during her tenure. She is the author of Feed My Sheep: A 40-Day Devotional to Develop a Heart for Hunger Ministry (2019) and More Like Jesus: A Devotional Journey (2018) and the editor of a number of other books from her newspaper’s Advocate Press, which she helped found in 2017.
She has won more than 100 writing awards and is a seasoned speaker and frequent contributor to Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and BibleStudyTools.com, among many others. She has a weekly faith blog at JessicaBrodie.com and is part of the team at Wholly Loved Ministries, with her work included in many of their devotionals and Bible studies.
Brodie holds a Master of Arts in English, and she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in communications/print journalism from Florida International University. Born and raised in Miami, Brodie now lives in Lexington, South Carolina, just outside Columbia. She has also lived in Ohio and in the mountains of western North Carolina. She and her husband, Matt Brodie, have a blended family of four teenage children and stepchildren.
Brodie has written several novels and is actively seeking publication through her agent Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her novel The Memory Garden won the 2018 Genesis contest for Contemporary Fiction from American Christian Fiction Writers, and her novel Tangled Roots won a third place Foundation Award in Contemporary Romance at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in 2019. She is finishing the third in the series, Hidden Seeds, now.
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