Recently, while at an event, a new friend of mine learned some distressing news about a family member’s sudden health crisis. His family lived hours away and my friend was left feeling anxious and helpless. News was not coming fast enough to calm his fears and he was stuck, not knowing what to do.
Probably like most people, my first inclination was to do everything I could to take away the pain. I stood awkwardly, fidgeting by him while he sat with his head in his hands. I wanted to DO something. I didn’t know him well enough to know how he preferred to be attended to when in pain – to talk, to come up with an action plan, to be left alone – ? I tried to pull information out of him, to make “helpful” suggestions… nothing seemed quite right and he was obviously distressed. After a bit of bumbling around, I realized that I CAN’T take away the pain and honestly, I wanted the pain to go away so that I would feel better and we could go back to our easy conversation and laughter.
I took a deep breath and accepted that I could offer my compassionate support, a hand on the shoulder, a listening ear when he was ready to talk. So, I stayed near him and prayed silently. I felt myself calm way down and be more available to be present to my friend. While it felt like I was doing nothing, I know how presence and prayer have been huge gifts to me when I’m in pain.
It can be so difficult to fight against those good intentions to fix situations for people. If I’m honest with myself, I often want the pain to go away for someone else so I won’t be uncomfortable anymore. It is helpful for me to pause and remember that God might be doing something bigger here through this pain. Of course, I should not avoid or shirk opportunities to help in other ways when it’s appropriate, but in my experience, it’s often best to begin by being present and available, listening, and praying.
What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Have you had a recent experience like mine?