You'd think with all the time that's passed since last I posted that I'd have lots to say, but somehow when I sit down to write a blog post, all brilliant thoughts flee my brain.
Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a lot of pain in life? I currently have two friends (who don't know each other or even know about each other) who are going through gut-wrenching pain. All of the love in the world doesn't make the hurt go away, and no matter what I say, I know that my words are useless to them. It is very hard to watch those you love ache with life.
I was recently discussing with a friend how, when I was younger, I thought that words brought healing. When someone I cared about was in pain, I searched in vain for the "right words" to say to that person that would help. My closest friend went through some dreadful health issues and emotional issues in quick succession in years past. I remember trying so hard to figure out what to say to make things better, and even telling her that no matter how hard I tried, I felt that I always said the wrong thing. She was exceedingly gracious at all times and assured me that my words helped. Bless her. Now I know that she was just being kind! Words don't help!
I often read the LPM blog (http://blog.lproof.org/) and there was a recent post that asked what is helpful and what is UNhelpful when going through a time of pain (no matter the cause). I thought to myself, "Nothing anyone has to say makes as much of an impact as listening does." And the overwheming response of commentators agreed with me. When I am hurting, I want someone to listen to me. NOT to say, "I understand!" Nothing is more of a slap in the face than to be told "I understand" by someone who hasn't experienced what you are experiencing! Each person is different, and no matter how closely your pain resembles mine, you cannot begin to fully understand the depth of my feeling, because your life circumstances are not the same as mine.
Another unhelpful thing is to ignore the situation--- and pretend like it isn't happening. When you go through something terrible, it shapes your days. You can't (and shouldn't) bury it; those things always rise again another day, and it's better to deal with it now. It won't help my friends deal with their pain if I ignore it and pretend like it's not there. (I am not advocating wallowing in it, but that's a story for another day.)
That being said, the words "I love you, I care, I am here for you, I'm sorry this is happening to you, and I will pray for you and with you" are balm to a weary soul. Sympathy is overrated. Empathy is the way to go.
The single most important thing that anyone can do, though, is to give the gift of your presence. This can be as simple as a text message or card in the mail, or as sacrificial as an eight-hour drive to be there face-to-face. Those everyday reminders that you are thought of and loved through this difficult time are the threads that lead you through the storm.
I would be remiss if I didn't share the scripture that I find most helps me when I hurt, and that is Isaiah chapter 53. The only person who I believe understands each and every hurt that we feel on this earth is Jesus Christ, and the proof that he understands (from experience) is in that chapter. I don't necessarily think that everyone else in the world would find as much comfort from that chapter as I do, but the fact remains that Jesus understands. No matter which scripture from which you glean comfort, we know that it is the Word of God that speaks, and His presence is with us when we live through trials.