Monday, March 15, 2010

Engaging the Pain

How do we respond to people when they are going through a tremendous amount of pain?

Last Sunday, after church, a woman came up to me and asked me to pray for a friend of hers. Her friend was a woman who had lost her son, lost her job and was in danger of losing her house.

She was upset. She was in a lot of pain. She was grieving the loss of her son. She didn't have the resources, either financially or emotionally to deal with her current crisis.

I sat there with her. I prayed for her. I listened to what she had to say. I listened to her anger and frustration. I listened to her tears.

I offered her a few words of comfort, encouragement and support. Understandably, they didn't make much of a difference to her. I gave her the names and numbers of a few people I know who might be able to help her. I don't know if that will make much of a difference either, though I hope it does.

Mostly, I just sat there in silence and acknowledged how completely useless I was in this situation.

I know that one day, the ruler of heaven and of earth will come back, and he will wipe away every tear, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. But until that day comes there will be pain and crying and mourning and death, and I don't know how to respond. This is the dilemma we all face.

I believe that every person has an obligation to help people in need to the best of their ability. At the same time, I know that that's not the answer this woman needs. No person can give this woman her son back, or give back the years this woman has lost to grief.

Ultimately, it is up to God to restore this woman, to give back what was taken from her. Until that happens, we live with the pain. The question remains, how do we respond to it?


  1. Sometimes all the person needs at that moment is a listening ear, a hug, and most definitely a prayer. We are not the fixers. If you have appropriate resources, great. But chances are you won't, but that doesn't mean that you haven't helped the hurting brother or sister. Just being there may be enough.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement.

    I still wish that I could have done more for her. I know that, ultimately, it is up to God to solve these kinds of problems. But that's what makes it so difficult for people in situations like that. It's hard to continue to trust and to hope in those situations. It is hard to continue to wait on God as we see our resources slowly sap away.

    I'm sorry if this seems a little too negative. I just wonder how to respond to the deepest pain and the worst situations. How do we show people God's love when it seems as though God has left us?