We all know the stifling undercurrent of watching someone we love become someone different– it quickens our heart and shortens our breath, creating an unreachable and profound panic within us.
When a friend has lost or will lose a parent…
When a husband’s livelihood becomes too much for him to bear…
When a sister who should have been a mom, becomes a mourner instead…
When cancer makes a grandparent unrecognizable…
When the moral fabric of a friend dissolves into selfish desire…
You ambivalently wish to take their place and wish to rescue them at the same time. You imagine yourself saying something transforming. Instead, you find yourself repeating truthful, yet somewhat worthless, cliches:
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“God is in control.”
“It’s going to be okay.”
When you leave their side and slump into your car to drive home, ideas come to you for how you should have better handled it–the things you should have said, the comfort you should have administered, the Bible verses you should have recited.
You slump deeper into the driver’s seat when you realize it’s too late. You did what you could, but still left them hurting. You did not say anything transforming. You did not rescue them.
Still feeling useless, regretful, and depleted when you pull into your driveway, you stare at your closed garage door as minutes pass and radio commercials murmur, consumed, and trapped, by thoughts of how you could help.
You briefly consider going back, only to realize you would probably just end up repeating the same cliches and going back would only be for you. You think about what you needed when you were the person who was crumbling, and a flicker of hope passes through you as you finally walk into your house–you needed God and, chances are, your loved-one needs God too.
In our deepest times of hurt it can be profoundly difficult to recognize God as a loving, compassionate father, instead of a vindictive, heartless enemy. The knowledge of the Lord that we have stockpiled in our hearts for these precise moments of pain, burns down when our emotion, often the opposite of knowledge, floods our hearts. For many of us, emotion is a stronger being to control than knowledge. In our times of need a friend or our conscience may whisper, “God is near,” but our emotion screams, “God has left.” Emotion wins, hurt wins, anger wins and God becomes a distant, and blurry, memory.
Ironically, our only possible source of rescue is this God, whom we have substituted for lies, whom we’ve decided to blame. A child of God will almost always find his way back to the Lord, after trying to navigate the pain alone for some time; however, remaining in His arms through each tear from the very beginning would alleviate an immense amount of pain.
As you slowly stoop down to remove your shoes, your head pounding as the blood settles, this strong, and rapidly growing, realization is easing you back to feeling useful and energized, away from the negative emotions that threatened you on your drive home.
Straightening up in your dining room chair, lights off, garage door still open, you sigh and whisper into the air, like you’re summoning a different world, yet only your dog can hear, “God…”
As the passionate prayers for your hurting loved one pore from your mouth, or perhaps your soul, you begin to fill back up–your breaths finally lengthen while your heart slows to its regular rhythm. Your prayers start out as a whisper, but slowly unfold so that now your dog is eyeing you in the dark.
When “amen” finally reaches your lips, you imagine your friend, miles away, feeling a little less in a million pieces and a little more complete. As you stand up and reach for the light switch, you smile, knowing you’ve done all you can.