One evening as I was watching an episode of America’s Got Talent during the fall 2021 season, the last singer brought me to tears. Jane Marczewski from Zanesville, Ohio, was not only amazing but also inspirational. When asked by one of the judges what she does for a living, the 30-year-old contestant opened up about her personal struggle.
She explained: “I have not been working for quite a few years. I’ve been dealing with cancer.”
Before she began singing her original song “It’s OK,” she explained, “It’s the story of the last year of my life.”
She added, “It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.”
The judges were inspired by her. After her performance, one gave her the award all contestants hoped for—the golden buzzer, which automatically advanced her in the contest without the rest of the judges voting.
She explained the attitude that had kept her going: “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
If anyone had a right to be unhappy, she did—as she has been fighting for several years against a cancer that has a 2 percent survival rate.
“You blew us all away,” the host of the show said. “You are the voice we all need to hear this year.”
Encouragement in distressing times
This is certainly so after everything we’ve been through in recent times, with so many challenges affecting us all in different ways.
We’ve been through so much this last year with the Covid pandemic. It has brought isolation, fear, anxiety and anger. It has divided people, including families. What this young woman did in her song gave the kind of encouragement everyone needs right now. That’s why the judges of America’s Got Talent and those who were watching it became emotional. If this young woman can keep going with only a 2 percent chance of recovering from this cancer and decide to be happy, so can we. Great advice, right? Easier said than done. So how can we do that?
The day after I watched this episode of America’s Got Talent, we had a special guest talk to us at the office about how to handle stress. The timing was perfect after being inspired by this young singer the night before.
The presenter’s name is Andi Chapman. She gave some amazing points on how to handle stress. (You can find several recorded interviews with her by searching for “Andi Chapman” on our website at ucg.org.)
One point that stood out in my mind was the power of encouragement. It’s amazing how reaching out to encourage others helps you forget your own problems. Everyone needs encouragement. Every person you run into in your day-to-day life needs to be encouraged. Every person is going through something.
Consider again the young woman on America’s Got Talent. She has enough reason to stay home and give up, but instead she decided to reach out and encourage others with her amazing voice, amazing example and amazing message encapsulated in her song “It’s OK.”
Two ways to help make it through
When we are going through trials, the first thing we should do is turn to God to draw near to Him. Then, no matter what you are going through, there are ways to help you deal with it better. Here are two to remember.
First, ask God to help you to choose to be happy no matter what you are going through. In Isaiah 41:10 God tells us: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (New International Version).
God is there to help no matter what you are going through. In Exodus 33:14 we read where God says, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (NIV). Ask God to help you choose to be positive and happy.
Second, reach out and encourage others. Proverbs 12:25 tells us, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (English Standard Version). And offering a good word to someone else makes you glad too. Just like it did for that young singer—at the end of the show, she left with so much joy in her own heart because she had encouraged others.
Notice what Proverbs 10:11 tells us: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (NIV).
Remember what the young woman said before she began to sing: “It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.” She was determined to rise above her circumstances, choosing to be happy while encouraging others.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (NIV). Let us choose to be happy while encouraging others to be happy as well. Be a fountain of life for others!