I’d like to tell you a little bit about a woman named Angela.
Angela had the kind of story that makes the single among us say, “Wow, she’s really lucky.” In 2003, when she was 23 years old, she moved to Phoenix, simply because she felt God was calling her there. The next year, she met a wonderful, holy man who became her husband. They went on to have two beautiful children and the kind of really happy, loving marriage that can only exist between two people who put God at the center of their lives.
“Why can’t that happen to me?” we ask. “I can’t find anyone. Why doesn’t God call me to some city where I’d meet someone wonderful and find a happy marriage?”
Before you jump to any conclusions, let’s fast-forward a few years. In the early morning hours of Easter Sunday 2011, her husband, Chris takes Angela to the hospital to treat what they believe is constipation. What they find instead is stage four colon cancer that has already spread to her liver.
Are you still thinking she lived a fairy tale?
So what did she say when she received this devastating news? I know what I’d probably say, and it wouldn’t be pretty. But Angela, faced with the very real possibility that she may die and leave her husband and two very young children, said “But Jesus still rose, so we will trust.”
And she did. She trusted Him as she faced aggressive treatment after aggressive treatment. She trusted Him as she grew smaller and weaker. She trusted Him when the doctors told her that there was nothing more they could do. She was human, of course. She didn’t want to die and leave her family. She said that when she couldn’t say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” she would hold her husband’s hand and ask him to say it for her.
Three days after her diagnosis, she wrote “Perhaps the burden will become the greatest blessing in our lives.”
She offered her sufferings as a prayer—for the intentions of others, and in particular for children who suffer from chronic illnesses.
Her story went viral. Thousands upon thousands of people learned about this courageous young woman who had entrusted her life completely to God in the midst of enormous suffering.
And God acted in the midst of it. Stories began to pour in from people who were rediscovering their faith, rediscovering God and learning to trust Him again. Angela changed the lives of people she had never even met.
Angela breathed her last breath on September 21, 2012, moments after her 5-year-old daughter kissed her cheek, and a day before her son turned 3. She left friends with explicit instructions for his birthday party—a mother to the end.
At her funeral, Fr. John Parks said that “Angela’s faith never looked so pure, it never looked so beautiful, it never looked so luminous than when she prepared for death.” The burden indeed became the blessing, when she turned it over for God. And as God continues to work through her, people continue to hear her story, to respond to the grace that she won for them, and to turn back to Christ.
Here’s what I’m thinking: if Angela could trust God with the burden of facing death in her early 30s, I’m thinking maybe I can learn to trust him with the “burden” of being single—and with every other burden life presents to me. St. Paul said “we know that all things work for good for those who love the Lord and walk according to His purposes” (Rom 8:28). All things. If it’s true for a life cut tragically short, then it’s certainly true for whatever little trials I may have to endure. If I give them to God, He will bring good from them. I know that.
After her death, Angela’s husband Chris—a man who knows a thing or two about burdens—said, “The burden becomes the blessing if we accept all life as a gift and turn to God in our burdens. When we allow God the Father to teach us, Jesus the Son to show us the way, the Holy Spirit our consoler to help us—the burden will indeed be the blessing.”
And it will, indeed.