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From the Spring 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Ministry of Discipling Friendships:

How God Uses Christ-Centered Friendships to Sustain Us in Trials and Help Redeem Our Suffering

by Brenda Solomon, Co-Founder of Jill’s House
with Kristie Jackson, C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow

 

odly friendships are vital in the life of every believer. As the wife of Lon Solomon, the senior pastor of the large and still growing McLean Bible Church, and mother to Jill, our daughter with special needs, I’ve witnessed the spiritual danger of isolation. But I have also seen the power of being carried, encouraged, challenged, and transformed through the ministry of friendship.
  It is a testament to God’s grace that I survived the heartache of the past twenty-one years. In January 1992 my family began an unforeseen and deeply painful journey. Our sons were fifteen, eleven, and seven the winter that we welcomed our baby girl, Jill, into the world. We were thrilled to have a healthy and strong baby and praised God for our daughter. But three months later Jill started having focal seizures in her hands, and these quickly turned into uncontrolled grand mal seizures. Daily Jill would have many hard seizures. We tried new medications and new doctors, but nothing seemed to help. I felt my life unraveling, and Lon and I were heartbroken. Of course we knew that serving God didn’t exempt us from suffering, yet we couldn’t help but question why this was happening to our family.
  Suddenly our usual dinner times together, sitting on the sidelines at sporting events, and attending church as a family were all but impossible. We grieved the death of dreams and the loss of family time together. As Lon once described it, “The laughter had been sucked out of our family.”

The Gift of Godly Friends

  The depth of our grief was indescribable, but Lon never faltered. He encouraged us to keep claiming God’s promises, and Lon’s consistency—emotionally, spiritually, and physically—was essential. But as I look back, I can clearly see that God also provided an intimate network of godly women to support me. Three friends in particular were a part of my spiritual growth and accountability well before Jill was born. And when Jill started having seizures, and weekly—sometimes even daily—trips to the emergency room became part of family life, God sent me another very special friend named Mary.
  One morning, when Jill was about two-and-a-half, she had a very hard seizure and I just fell apart. Utterly broken, I fell on my face before the Lord. I begged God to use Jill’s life in a mighty way, because what we were experiencing was just too painful to waste. Later that very day, Mary called. Even though we had never met, Mary said that God had told her to call me. Of course she had no idea about the state of mind I was in. I spent two hours crying into the receiver, telling Mary how helpless I felt, how completely drained I was emotionally and physically.
  That phone call marked the beginning of an extraordinary, God-ordained friendship. Just dialing me up was an act of obedience for Mary. Many of us are guilty of ignoring the urging of the Holy Spirit by putting it off until it’s more convenient or seems more appropriate. But not Mary, she obeyed promptly. I am so thankful that she did, because that call and her friendship changed the course of my life. You see Mary herself has endured years of illness and disability. She is often confined to bed, and I’ve spent many hours talking and crying with Mary in her bedroom. In fact Mary’s room is one of my favorite places in the world, because it is there that this dear saint has spoken, and continues to speak, so much truth into my life. Much of her wisdom has come to birth through her own suffering, and she has a tremendous faith. Mary would tell me over and over again that Jill wasn’t a mistake, that God knew what He was doing, and that God was using Jill’s life from day one.

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