Have you ever been through a week where it seems bad news follows you wherever you go? I’m not just talking about the kind of things, like flat tires and breaking a nail, but the kind that alters lives — break-ups and diagnoses, foreclosures and lay-offs… That kind.
These events are never easy, of course. When someone we love or care about shares their burdens with us, we pray for the right words, the right expressions of concern, help, and compassion. And way too often, we feel that whatever we offer is woefully insufficient.
From our own experiences, we draw empathy for another’s affliction. We’ve all had something in our lives to compare these burdens to. We’ve all had heartbreaks and anxieties; we’ve all worried at the well of uncertainty. These round out our common life journeys, intertwined with the joys and breakthroughs and triumphs that also come to us in seasons.
But what can we offer when we feel there is truly nothing we can do?
In my own life, when the wounding was deep, when helplessness was on overload, I cannot tell you how — just having someone listen — helped me. To sense another’s willingness to hear me, to validate me, to understand that my tale of woe was not a cry for pity, but for clarity.
Sometimes, all we need is someone to help us clear away the debris of our situations, to find the substance of it, so that we can find a place to stand on our own two feet and and say “Okay. I can do this.”
There are things that have been said to me, words of simple wisdom, pronouncements of encouragement, that I swear were directly from the mouth of God. “He’s working this out, just watch…” “Just let it all play out and see…” “Give it to God and rest…” All truth, threaded in the common language of faith.
It’s hard to hear in these times, when we are hurting and just want to know that whatever we are facing truly will be alright in the end, that there is a blessing buried deep within our circumstance. Blessings in disguise surely can’t come from such life altering experiences… Why would God do that? Why can’t we just have the blessing without the harrowing destruction that so often comes with it?
I think it’s because the fire is meant to bring out what is best in us. Are we willing to trust Him? Are we willing to walk by faith and not by sight? Are we capable of submitting our control over to Him in the knowing that He truly knows what is best for us?
In countless life situations, I have seen God work things out better than my own one-dimensional thinking could possibly ever imagine. He knows the end from the beginning; He knows what’s up ahead for us, and how He has to guide us down a different path so as to reroute our progress and avoid catastrophe. He defines our purpose in these times; He refines our spirits. Sometimes, He saves our lives.
We may not always have the perfect words to tell someone in the midst of a life transition or difficulty. But God never expects us to be perfect or to be so well-equipped that we don’t need Him. In fact, I believe that our greatest purpose, is in simply pointing others to the One who is able to do all things. By word or deed, we are most useful when leading others to the Source of where all help and good things come.
That doesn’t mean that all difficulties miraculously disappear. It doesn’t mean that people come back to us, new jobs are handed out on street corners, or that healing happens without suffering.
It only means, that with God all things are possible. And, when we reach the other side of what we are going through, the blessings will present themselves and we will know that God knew the reason for the trial.
Know that He knows.
And if you only offer to someone this simple truth, you will have offered the very thing that is needed most.