I have dear friends going through very difficult struggles. We know this human life, so often filled with great joy, can yield far greater suffering; physical and emotional pain surrounds. Yet this knowledge of inevitable suffering doesn’t make it easier to handle. Sometimes life’s chaos is thrown at you so hard it takes your breath away. Sometimes the person you love and trust the most causes you more pain than you could ever imagine possible. Sometimes the person you always thought would be there, suddenly isn’t. Sometimes the perfect path we plan for our lives veers so off course we lose all sense of stability and control.
Unfortunately, empathy is not one of my strong traits. When people I care about are struggling and hurting, it is a challenge for me to know how to be a good friend; to be supportive and say the right words. To understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions is not a natural reaction for me.
I attempt to simply be present in love; to offer prayers and kind words. It never feels like enough – but is what we are called to be. We are called to love one another; we are called to provide care and suffer along with our friends and enemies alike:
“…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together;” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
I struggle even now, trying to write these words too late on a Sunday evening, unable to express how I hold love yet so often fail to show love. My son just stopped over and began to read over my shoulder. (Amazing to hear my son actually reading the words I type. What a world that is opened when you begin to read; and a joy to experience it all over again through your children.) I explained what I was writing about. I told him we need to pray for our friends. I asked if he knows the words to say when someone he loves is hurting. Sure, he said. “We should say prayers, give hugs and offer comfort.” God-like words from the mouth of a child!
Beyond this message for those suffering with is this message for those who suffer… Do not be afraid to lean on other people! Ask for help, share your fears, find a person or group that will listen and be willing to share the pain you feel.
We are stronger if we go through this world together, through both the joy and the suffering. God’s love is shown through our interactions with one another. So we must be willing to be used by God to be a source of comfort for those around us. And when we suffer, we must let others suffer along with us. We must allow the people placed in our lives to be God’s peace and love during those times we hurt the most.