Everywhere I look, those I love are suffering.
A friend, said goodbye to his beloved wife last week, when she left for Heaven. She courageously fought against cancer for ten years.
One friend’s husband has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), another friend’s husband a brain tumor. Two of Duane’s cousins are sitting beside their husbands in different hospitals. One is recovering from a tragic accident that crushed his leg. The other is very sick with a disease in his pancreas.
I read this morning about a couple who live here in our area, who just found out that their unborn baby will not survive long past birth. Another one is watching her brother navigate the loss of his marriage. A close friend is facing work-disability. The nephew of a good friend has Leukemia. A girl is in treatment for eating disorders and depression. My Facebook newsfeed is loaded with requests for prayer, for so many painful things people are experiencing…and my heart grows heavier.
I’m confident each one reading this, can also say, “Yes, I too know so many who are suffering.”
I often read or hear these things, and think “I have nothing to complain about. Period.”
Then comes the overwhelming feeling that I’m incapable of making it better; feeling paralyzed by the “largeness” of each issue, and needing to be reminded that God is enough for all of it…always enough.
I’m learning through my experiences, that I can not fix everything. You may be laughing to think I ever thought I could. Believe me, I tried….and failed.
Yet I now understand I am equipped with tools to offer love and support, compassion and help, and also regard and empathy. Most, if not all of us understand that other humans can’t take suffering away, but other humans can walk up beside us and say, “I see your pain, and you won’t have to walk through this alone.”
“You are not alone.” have become four of the most powerful words to me, in the last ten years. If I don’t know how to relate, I can still be available. When you don’t need another remedy, I can offer my listening ears. If I can’t be where you are, I can let you know that I’m there in my heart.
Sometimes being with someone looks like being with them. Showing empathy. Offering a quiet prayer.
Sometimes being with someone looks like this:
When Duane had a bad vehicle accident in 2004, the weeks and months following were difficult.
I had friends who couldn’t handle our mess. I also had friends that got into the mess with us.
He recovered and I survived, yet the lessons that came from those days, have continued to impact me, ten years later (and counting).
Some simply rang our doorbell, and said, “Here is a pan of food.” and “I am here to take the kids, so you can nap.”
Some sent gift cards and meaningful messages of love. Some called to let us know they cared. Some stopped by. Then there were the two who willingly helped with Duane’s care. Another showed up with hot donuts at 10:00 at night. Another family showed up with boxes of food. Some stopped by with milkshakes and helped me fold laundry. Their small acts of kindness, made such a big difference; giving us enough strength to get through that particular day.
It takes courage and vulnerability to allow others in, during our hard times. We are often obsessed with others not seeing our mess, or us at our worst. Having someone clean my toilets was enough to make me crazy, until my friend reminded me that if the roles were reversed, I would clean hers. It was true.
It can be tricky to be the friend; needing to identify the need and perform a task. Often those needing help, don’t have the energy to ask. I have found that asking for them to call me, when they need me, most likely will not happen. Also, asking, “What do you need?” may not be helpful either.
I have the most success when I ask, “Would it be helpful for you, if I brought taco salad over for your dinner?” or “I know you have a full day of appointments. I’m taking my kids to the park this afternoon, may I stop by and grab yours?”
Depending on how close you are to someone, you may be able to be the most helpful, by just showing up and saying, “I am here to do your laundry.” If you don’t know someone well enough to show up, maybe send them a gift card for a restaurant, or a pre-paid VISA card they can use for whatever would meet their needs.
The internet is full of ideas on how to bless others during the hard times. Here are a few:
Blessing New Parents:
20 Meals to Deliver To Friends:
27 Ways to Comfort a Sick Friend:
Etiquette For When A Friend Is Sick:
This clip from Brene Brown is inspiring to me, when I’m questioning what someone really needs:
I am not a expert on this topic. I am learning as I go, how to respect the space of others, and meet their needs (not mine) at the same time.
Because I have faith in God, I see the suffering and heartbreak around me, and know that no matter what I can or cannot humanly do, I can offer hope.
I am confident of God’s goodness in the dark.
Duane and I can attest that in some of our hardest days, God’s hand could be seen. He saw us through pain and uncertainty, and through His people, He blessed us with grace upon grace.
I don’t have answers for why we must suffer, but I can say this:
“Life is hard; God is there.”
This is my hope.
“Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5