Last week was a great week. Joni and I had our next to last date at the Slow Drip Spa and on Friday she had her chemo port removed. The finish line is now clearly in sight. We have learned so much over the past 16 months. An earlier story called the Cancer Chronicles linked some of the blogs that were written during this difficult journey. One of the more subtle but most important lessons is the subject of today’s humble ramblings.

A country song reminded me again about a critical lesson that we learned just a few months down the long and winding road of treatment. Tracy Lawrence has a hit recording about friendship. The song is titled “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are” and Lawrence notes that some friends step up when there is a need.

Run your car off the side of the road
Get stuck in a ditch way out in the middle of nowhere
Get yourself in a bind lose the shirt off your back
Need a floor need a couch need a bus fare

This is where the rubber meets the road
This is where the cream is gonna rise
This is what you really didn't know
This is where the truth don't lie

When we heard the news of Joni’s cancer it felt like driving off the side of the road. After the initial numbness wore off we began to give friends and family the news. The initial response was encouraging. But as the days and weeks drag on the lyrics of Lawrence’s song become reality.

You find out who you're friends are
Somebody's gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get there fast
Never stop to think 'what's in it for me' or 'it's way too far'
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who you're friends are

I think most of us have a preconceived list of who will be there when we have a personal crisis. That list is often wrong. Joni and I were surprised that some people did not respond as we expected. And some did respond exactly as we thought they would. Other people that we never dreamed would drop everything did just that and showed up consistently with their big old hearts.

I will be honest and admit that Joni and I spent some early time dwelling on some people who did not step up. And then God taught us the critical lesson. The lesson came courtesy of a book that really helped Joni during her most difficult chemotherapy regiment. Praying Through Cancer is a series of devotionals written by cancer patients. One day Joni discovered a brief devotional about this very topic. The writer noted that she had learned to be grateful for the people that God raised up to minister to her. She had learned that God placed her illness on the hearts of some that she would have never expected. She changed her focus from dwelling on those who weren’t there to rejoicing for those that God had chosen to share the journey with her.

Joni discussed that little devotional with me and the light went on for both of us. We started thinking about some unlikely people who had faithfully sent cards, brought food and expressed love and prayers. Then we quit worrying about who wasn’t there for us and started thinking about who was there. And our joy returned.

Choosing to be grateful for the people God had chosen to minister us allowed us to change our attitude toward those who had not stepped up as we had expected. Satan would have us dwell on the disappointment of unmet expectations and totally miss the joy of unexpected blessings from the body of Christ. Maybe our expectations of some folks were unfair. Perhaps they were dealing with their own personal or spiritual valleys that made it impossible for them to be there for us. Perhaps some simply did not know how to respond and then it became more difficult as time went by.

Solomon wrote this in Ecclesiastes.

If one falls down,
       his friend can help him up.
       But pity the man who falls
       and has no one to help him up!

We are grateful that we had friends and fellow travelers in the body of Christ to help us up. The list of helpers that God lifted up looked a little different than we would have predicted. But what a blessing that has turned out to be as we see how He has moved in the hearts of many that we did not expect.

Tracy Lawrence continues with his song…

When the water's high
When the weather's not so fair
When the well runs dry
Who's gonna be there?

Joni and I have learned to be grateful for who is there and forgiving of those who are not. That is one of the most important lessons we have learned on this long journey.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.