when it hurts not to help

I have a friend whose husband lives with chronic pain.  There’s nothing she can do to change it or help it.  She would do anything, but she can’t.

Right now I’m watching someone I love go through a really difficult struggle.  It’s affecting their self-image and confidence, and causing them a lot of pain.  I don’t think it should affect those things at all – I think they are still exactly who they were before, but I’m not them.  I’m not feeling what they are feeling.

I just know I would give anything in the world to be able to help.

I know that’s how a lot of people felt when I was going through cancer.  It hurts to feel helpless when someone you love is hurting.  I would much rather be the one in pain than watch someone I care about go through it.

But the thing is, I wouldn’t trade what I went through for anything.  I learned and grew and became a better person.  I got closer to God than ever in my life.   Honestly, there are times now when I almost am sorry I’m well again because I miss that incredible intimacy of feeling the presence of God just enveloping me and holding me when I was so scared or when I needed his strength to get through a procedure.

I would never have learned the things I’ve learned if I hadn’t gone through cancer.  And, for that matter, if I hadn’t gone through some of the other traumatic things in my life.  I can’t really think back on a relaxing, happy time and remember deep spiritual growth that came out of it. A block of wood can be polished and shined but it doesn’t become a beautiful statue unless it has been carved and chipped away first.  It is the chisel that shapes me and the sandpaper that smooths me, and only sometimes do I rest in the glow of being polished and buffed and held.

So for my loved one, and the many loved ones hurting and struggling, I can pray.  Not that the struggle ends quickly, but that you grow quickly and that it ends in God’s time.  That you can find the depth of relationship that God is urging you toward, and that you can trust in him to have your very best interests at heart.  He wants to make things better for you much more than anyone else does – he just has a much bigger definition of “better”.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.  I Peter 4:12-13

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