People in Pain…
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Our Connecticut community was traumatized this week with the horrific accidental death of 6-year-old Jeffrey who was helping his father in the yard and fell into a wood chipper — dying in front of his helpless dad and young siblings. Upon hearing this news, I found I couldn’t process it emotionally and tried to block my mind and heart from ‘going there’ because putting myself in that family’s place was almost more than I could bear… and yet they are having to live through the nightmare… and my heart weeps for them.
And for many others just this week…
* A dear friend who had to face some uncertain medical results on the same day her lifelong friend was told that cancer had invaded her entire body.
* A young mom delivered her first baby at 2 lbs, but way too early…
* A fine man who has been unemployed for over a year has experienced another disappointment in the seemingly unending job search.
* An octogenarian feels old and lonely and her body is in pain all the time.
*A dear friend in her nineties shared with me the grief of losing her younger sister this week.
*The roller coaster of life and circumstances caused an emotional meltdown in someone who is usually strong and juggles a lot.
*A future son-in-law lost his grandfather this week and a far away friend said goodbye to her precious Daddy. And another friend who has experienced way too much loss in 2012 watched her favorite pet die, my best friend’s mentor died and today another author friend’s son died…
*Loved ones are struggling with relationship-building while living far apart.
*After more than three decades of marriage, a husband and wife have separated.
*A young couple is doing everything possible to begin a family…
These are just a few situations that intersected my life and were added to my prayer list this in the last few days. Pain and sorrow and suffering on many levels. But it’s all around us, isn’t it? And when such things come my way I desperately want to ‘fix it’ or comfort or ‘solve’ or somehow point to a direction of hope (whether or not the timing is right for them to hear it).
Full confession here: Sometimes I feel tremendous weight from the burdens of so many who are suffering. I wake up thinking of them and praying for them and hurting for them… I usually come on down to my little corner of the porch and pray and turn to the Psalms or hymns or prayers of others who know all too well — “He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah speaking of Christ).
If YOU are in Pain…
If you are one of those dear people in pain today, may I suggest the Psalms of Lament — certain psalms which are really prayers where one speaks honestly to God about what he is going through, then turns to God for specific help that he knows will come. See how Psalm 102 shows us that truly He ‘knows how we feel’ in such times of suffering:
(“Here is what I’m going through, God!”) Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor. In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation. (Psalm 102.1-5 NLB)
(“Here’s what gives me hope, God!”) Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble! Come and redeem me; free me from my enemies. I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power. Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. (Psalm 102.16-17, 29-30 NLB)
Praying such a psalm reminds me that God knows my Problem, but He also holds my Solution. Mostly, He is there to hear my Lament…and to respond.
You may also find comfort in singing words such as the ones George Matheson wrote to his fiance deserted him because he went blind: “O Joy that seekest me in pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be.” (‘O Love that Will Not Let Me Go’ 1882)
For OTHERS in Pain…
Both scripture and hymnody set the stage for embracing hope, but the practical me wants to know “What can I DO for you in your suffering?” It seems, not very much. All I came up with is a short list, but perhaps an important one:
1. PRAY. If we say we will pray for someone in need, then we must do it immediately (yes, even on the phone or whilst driving) but also write it in our prayer journal for remembering them before the throne of grace over and over again. Do not pass along their request to anyone else (or, heaven forbid, the church prayer chain) unless you have received permission and the exact wording to do so.
“Lord God, in Your compassion, come close to those who cry out in pain, to all who are sleepless with worry, and to any who are physically or mentally wounded. Convince us that what matters in healing is not a magic formula, or a special form of prayer, but simply the willingness to enlarge our trust in Your presence. May Your presence encourage those who nurse and tend the sick or wait and weep as loved ones cling to life. Amen.” (Jane Grayshorn “In Times of Pain”)
2. CONTACT. Sometimes the best way is through a handwritten note which can be referred to over and over again. One can even slip in a prayer card or some verses or a vintage handkerchief. More practical to many folks is contact by telephone or email to remind those suffering that you have not forgotten and are standing with them. A great way of contact is practical help, such as food, childcare, restaurant gift card, housecleaning, etc. However, don’t ask, just deliver the gift.
3. REMIND. What would I say to that grieving family? That suffering woman? That discouraged young man? I would simply remind them of God’s Love and God’s Presence. That the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe knows what they are suffering and is alongside them throughout the journey. “Apart from the presence of God, there is no deep healing fo our grief. Time can make it easier but that is all. The good news when our hearts are broken is that God invites us to fully mourn in the great space of His Loving Presence. Our pain does not threaten Him; it does not cause Him to fear that we will ruin His reputation. He is not repulsed with the ugliness we feel. Even when we hurt so much that we can hardly bear it, we are still His Beloved.” (Sally Breedlove in ‘Choosing Rest’)
It’s a new week and I daresay there will be many more prayer requests coming my way, needs and concerns that could be overwhelming if I believed I had to ‘fix’ and ‘carry’ them alone. But, since it’s not all about me, I am choosing to listen, enter in, and then gently point them in the direction of Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.
Do you know the Swedish hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father” — it’s beautiful and often sung at funerals of those who die young. In thinking of that grieving Connecticut family, I sing this to them and really, to all of us.
Neither life nor death shall ever, from the Lord His children sever;
unto them His grace He showeth, and their sorrows all He knoweth.
Though He giveth and He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.”
(Caroline Sandell Berg 1855)
under the mercy, Cindy
Click for a helpful article “How NOT To Minister to the Hurting”
copyright 2012 Lucinda Secrest McDowell