Last night I watched my 9 year old son Liam writhing in pain from a stomach virus that is going through our house. He asked me repeatedly for some medicine to help him but I knew (from experience) that medicine would not help him until he was done throwing up. It was the worst feeling watching him suffer and not being able to take his pain away. It’s not just Liam though, there are a few people dear to me that are suffering in one way or another. I wish I could take their fear, pain and anxiety away but I know that’s not how it works. I feel so helpless and overwhelmed at times like this. Have you ever experienced this before? Are you going through this now? Here are some things to remember from God’s Word when we have loved ones who are suffering.
Be there for them
You can’t change their circumstance but you can change how they experience it by being there for them. Sometimes being there for them means showing up and serving them the best you can in light of the situation. Sometimes it means just sitting quietly. It’s a relief to know that we don’t have to fix everything and take all of their pain or fear away. Sometimes these are just appropriate responses to what they are going through. Let them go through it and walk right along side them as they do. (Galatians 6:2)
Point them to Christ
What can we do after we have been there for them and alleviated any possible burden we can, but the pain, fear, or anxiety (or any other kind of suffering) is still there? The best thing we can do is seek to find ways to point them to Christ. God wants us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) but one burden we were never meant to bear was to be the source of each others peace and rest. That is God’s job and He does it well. Isaiah 26:3 says that God will “keep him in perfect peace who’s mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you.” If you can help your loved one keep their mind on Christ and trust in Him, you will be encouraging them to experience more peace in their trial.
Remember who God is
Repeatedly through out the Bible we are told that God is our Father (Romans 8:15). Also, repeatedly throughout the Bible we are told that God is good and what He does is good (Luke 18:19). If this is true (and it is), how would this change our perspective as we observe our loved one’s tough situation? Would this change what we say to them, and how we minister to them? We can choose to see everything spiraling out of control and lose hope in the situation, or we can trust a God who is a good Father. This will make a difference for the ones you love who are suffering because you will be showing them by your responses who God truly is in their lives.
Trust God with their story and yours
God has written our stories before the foundation of the world. He is in control (Romans 8:28-30). Whatever is going on in your family or with your dear friend is not a surprise to Him. It did not catch Him off guard. The reason this should be such a comfort to us is because of the previous point in this post: God is good and He is our Father. The reason this is difficult for us is because we can’t see the big picture. We only get this present glimpse of fear, pain, questions and confusion. It reminds me of when my kids were little and I took them to the doctor to get shots. They were too young to understand why their loving parent would allow such pain, but I knew it was the best plan for their lives in the long run. We can trust that God is writing our stories and our loved ones’ stories as well.
Have an eternal perspective
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the suffering all around you? It is good to grieve and sorrow with those suffering around you, but as a Christian we can do it with hope and with purpose. We don’t have to give in to despair, fear or depression at these times because we know that this life is not all there is. The Apostle Paul writes:
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”Romans 8:18
Paul was able to compare both the earthly suffering he had experienced with his vision or visit to heaven and concluded that it is not even worth comparing! One day all of the stress of seeing those we love suffer will be gone for ever. There will be no more pain or suffering on that day. This knowledge should give us great hope not only for eternity but for this very day no matter what we or our loved ones are faced with.