More times than I care to think about in the last week I have wanted a magic wand. I have desperately wished for one. If only I could be the Fairy Godmother for a day. Oh, how I would use my wand for good! I would allow pixie dust to fall from the glittered star onto the shoulders of those I love going through the darkest of times. But sadly, I don’t have a magic wand. Instead, I am left with hurting friends and feelings of helplessness.
Have you ever hurt so deeply for a friend you didn’t even know how to pray for them, let alone what to say? Lately it seems every time I turn around I am staring at yet another friend or family member facing devastating news. Just a few days ago, a dear friend of mine let me know her husband was diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer. They have a daughter only a year older than my Ella. Early this morning I was told another dear friend was having surgery that ended today with a full hysterectomy. They had been trying for another baby. Tonight I learned a surgeon had decided not to perform surgery on my aunt, recently diagnosed with lung cancer, because her quality of life would not be as it should. She was sent home with the hopes that radiation and chemo would possibly shrink the tumor enough to do surgery.
While each piece of news does not directly affect me, I am left completely affected—deeply heartbroken and painfully aware of how fragile life is. I am also left feeling utterly useless. How do I whisper words of encouragement when I have never walked in their heavy shoes? What on earth can I do for those in my life hurting so deeply? I feel as if I am left grasping for fragile bubbles blowing in the wind. Sometimes, when faced with the task of deciding what I can do, it is better to first look at what I should never do.
I should never run away because I’m scared of saying the wrong thing. In fact, I don’t have to say anything. Silence experienced in the comfort of a friendship may be just what is needed during painful times. It can even provide healing. When there are no words that come to mind, I shouldn’t try to fill the void with meaningless chatter. I should simply offer another cup of coffee and hold their hand.
I should never tell them everything will be okay. Because quite honestly, it may not be. In the darkest moments of life faced by our loved ones, we can never promise the sunshine. Sure, we all know the sun will one day shine again, but for our dear ones, in those moments, the words are meaningless. While the sun may shine, their worlds will never again spin in the same way. At this moment, everything is not okay.
I should never pretend that I understand. In reality, I don’t. I don’t know what it feels like to possibly loose a spouse. I don’t know what it feels like to know I can never have another child. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent. I don’t understand. But sometimes, the raw honesty of “I don’t understand what you’re going through,” is enough to show you do understand more than most.
I should never say, “I’ll be praying for you,” and then not pray. That’s our answer for things, isn’t it? When we run out of things to say, we give the clichéd, “I’m praying for you” answer and then return to our day, never once truly praying for those crushed by life. I am ashamed to admit I am guilty of this broken promise. When those I love need my prayers the most, it is often easier to busy myself with the realities of my own little world than the emotionally taxing hurts of others.
But what if I truly did begin to pray? Sometimes I struggle because I just don’t have the words, the pain is so great. But I do have the promise of an intercessor. My intercessor. Sweet Jesus, who will go to God the Father on my behalf. He knows my heart and understands the needs of my hurting loved ones. Lately, I am learning to pray without words and let the Savior do the talking. The point, dear friends, is to pray—even when there are no words.
In addition to prayer, I have love. I can love them. I can love them without abandon. My love can take on many forms. It can take the shape of honesty. How refreshing might it be for me to just tell my loved one that I have no words? That what has happened to them is just awful. Love can take the shape of my presence even in their ugliest moments. I can let them be angry. Shout and shake their fists. Yell at God. If I were in their shoes, it’s probably what I would want to do. Love can also take the shape of action. I can show up at their home with dinner. Offer to take children home from school. Bring them a cup of coffee. Email words of comfort. To love someone through the pain takes action.
It’s no magic wand, but it’s what I have. Will it be enough to end their hurt? No. Will it be enough to encourage them a little? Possibly. Will it be enough to show them they are not alone? Absolutely. And maybe, just maybe that’s all they need from me.