What do you do when you learn that someone you care about is in trouble? Serious trouble. The kind of trouble they can’t hide from. Can’t run from. And can’t ignore.
The kind of trouble where the authorities can only help them so far.
I’ve been recovering of late from a bad knee injury. It’s left me on crutches and throbs mercilessly, despite pain relievers. Hubby’s been good to me… he’s done the grocery shopping, dishes… carries things I can’t fit into the plastic bag slung over a crutch. He’s taken care of our pets, and fixes me breakfast in the morning.
Yep, he’s a great guy.
Despite my blessings, my spirits have been in the toilet all week. The prognosis from the orthopedist left me wallowing in self-pity, crying and praying about how inconvenient this all was for me, at this point in my life.
I have lots of gardening to do. A house that’s getting dirtier by the minute. Writing to complete.
Sitting at my computer bothers my knee. Standing is difficult and exhausting. Lying on either side is painful as well.
My grandiose plans for the summer are shot all to hell.
Like many people of faith, I’ve also felt a lot of self-condemnation for not being stronger in my faith during tough times.
Who was I to cry to God over such a little thing? Especially when every day I see messages on Facebook from friends who are struggling with far greater trials.
I only wish the best for my Facebook friends, but there’s still a disconnect there. I know that sounds awful, but it’s true. You can wish the best for someone and pray for them. Even find their situation creeping into your everyday consciousness, urging you to pray for them some more.
That’s called empathy, and empathy is important. All help we give to others starts with empathy. We are standing on the hillside, looking down at the flood in the valley, concerned for the occupants below.
But when trouble comes to someone who plays a bigger part in your life – someone you’re connected to in ways that are not dependent on Facebook – that’s when you go beyond empathy and find yourself sliding down that hillside, dangerously close to the flood waters yourself.
That’s where I found myself yesterday.
Thoughts of my puny knee problem dissipated in the face of those flood waters, and please, if you are reading this, pray for my friend. (I’m respecting her privacy and not telling you more about her, but God will know who you are praying for).
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that the lesson I learned from all this is to be grateful for my puny knee problem (which, believe me, I now am)… but I’m not going to say that.
Instead, I’m going to tell you that I think we have every right to have self-pity sometimes. Certainly my friend does.
Wallowing doesn’t help, but we need time to deal with the difficult emotions in life. Pain hurts. Physical and emotional. We’re flesh and blood – and whether you agree with this or not – we are ruled by our emotions.
We can garner all our efforts to control our thoughts, our circumstances or outcomes. It matters not one bit. Our emotions are not just extensions of ourselves which we can pluck out and set on a shelf. Hiding them from others or even from ourselves doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Ironically, in a strange twist of fate, self-denial of your emotions seems to give them even more control over you. Like a thief you turn your back on.
Emotions are our world. They are who we are. They are the reason behind the way you act, react, or fail to act at all.
Learning techniques to control your emotions can be helpful, yes. (Dare I point out that religion itself is one of those ways?) But you can’t stop yourself from feeling.
I think God understands we need time to process strong emotion. Time to calm the fears enough to develop a plan.
You can’t think straight and find refuge until you’re able to turn your face and identify your pursuer.
Christianity tells us that God does not condemn us for our weaknesses. Some believe (and some scriptures suggest) that our trials are given to us to test our faith and make us worthy of God. I don’t really buy that. Or maybe I just don’t buy the way it’s used in religious circles.
That implies we have to attain a certain standard before God will accept us. It implies punishment.
Sorry Charlie… but we will never attain that standard. That was the whole point of Christ’s sacrifice. The whole point of Grace. When God looks at us, he see’s us not as ourselves, but as he sees his son. Righteous and pure.
Troubles fall on everyone. Good person or bad, no one is excluded.
Our societal mentality is that people cause their own troubles. I hate this “punish the victim” mentality. Not all of our troubles are brought on by self, or within our power to control. Even those that are, we don’t intentionally do to hurt ourselves.
We are not being punished.
God is not out to get us.
Rather, his love and power is never more available to us then when those flood waters are rising over our heads.
Until we can find that branch to hold onto, to lift us out of our despair and rest on shore, we can call on that power of God. We don’t even have to know how to pray. And we certainly don’t have to apologize for our neediness.
That four letter word? Just look to God and cry… H-E-L-P.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV):
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Romans 8:26 (NIV):
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.