This is a rather unusual post for me. I am generally upbeat and positive - and I do not enjoy complaining! This post is not meant to be a complaining "poor me" post, or a sad "feeling sorry for myself" post. However, I don't want to give the idea with my posts that all is hunky-dory either. If everything was perfect and lovely, well, there would really be no need for God, would there? Anyway, several people have said a comment to me recently that I'd like to address here. I hate to bring it up, really, because I know that others say it with the best of intentions, only intending good. After all....
"... I have the desire to do what is right..."
(Romans 7:18 ESV)
But... what a powerful word "but" is. Think about kids - what is a child doing when he or she says "but....?" What does an adult mean when he or she says, "I understand... but...?" They mean they hear you BUT they disagree. Now I know that my friends do not realize that on a bad day when I cannot hide the fact that I hurt, saying "But you look so good..." really really hurts. They are trying to compliment me. However, let's try a little exercise. Say you fell down the stairs and sprained your ankle. Really twisted it up so that it doesn't bear your weight. You are sitting on the floor crying, and someone runs up. You explain what happened... and the person says "But your ankle looks fine!" Can you hear the crickets? Can you imagine how insensitive that feels to the person who is hurting? Can you see the wall you have just caused them to erect?
This is how I feel in a secret place deep inside when I open up enough to tell others that I am hurting, only to hear those dreaded words. It takes quite a lot for me to admit I am hurting. You see, I hurt all the time. I do not remember ever having a time when I felt no pain. Well, once I do, but as I was heavily drugged at the time, I'm not going to count that. Can you hear what I am saying? Can you imagine never ever taking stock of yourself and finding that nothing hurts?
Yeah. I do not like to admit pain. I am not a complainer - if I was I would soon have no friends, no confidantes, no one who could bear to be around me. I do not hold pain inside, privately proud of how strong I am either. I did at one point in my life, but that is a dangerous, self-mutilating way to live. To me, pain is simply a way of life. I don't forget to mention something that hurts so as not to complain - I forget because typically, my pain is forgettable to me. It is a way of life, a normality, an accepted fact. And that is not brave or heroic. I was born this way so it does not seem odd - it is my status quo. Many many people with chronic pain, fatigue, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity, immunodeficiencies, B12 deficiency, auto-immune thyroid disease, restless leg syndrome, osteoporosis, neuropathy, migraines, endometriosis, anemia, chronic inflammation and allergies simply walk through life smiling through the pain, because pain is a constant companion. That list, by the way, was my own personal list - at least all that I could think of off the top of my head.
So think about what a person like this is feeling when they actually voice their pain. Because friends, they are in enough pain that their normal has become unbearable to the average joe. When someone like this says "Man, I am really hurting today," please realize that if you are not a fellow sufferer, you would be somewhere between bedridden and hospitalized if you felt the same. These people are strong - they function with minimal sleep, constant stimulation of their nerves and a weariness that is unspeakable. And it is amazing how many are able to smile as they wade through the fog.
We try to smile through the tears. But sometimes the tears overtake us. Sometimes the pain is unbearable. Sometimes we venture into the world of others, trying to get comfort, trying to be heard. And when we finally look to you, please hear us. Please put out your hand and hold ours, look at us and say "I cannot possibly understand what you are going through, but I love you, I want to help you. Let me know if I can help you, but if I cannot, I am willing to just sit quietly with you and wait for the hurricane to pass." Please. Please do not tell us "But you look so good..."
But know that if you do, we will try to be understanding. We know you mean well. We know our lives are outside of your experience. Let me finish that earlier verse:
"... I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."
(Romans 7:18 ESV)
We do not have the ability. Only God does. Pray to Him to show you those who are hurting. And if He reveals them, please reach out. These people are lonely. They are so easily forgotten. Many cannot go to most public places without increasing their pain. They go to church and sometimes have to get up and go sit in another part of the church because someone used fabric softener. Malls, store, museums and other places are places that put their lives in danger. They may not be able to visit family members due to multiple chemical sensitivities or allergies. They may be hemmed in on all sides, hidden in the shadows, unable to get out. Next time you go to a soccer game or a church dinner, look around and notice who is not there. Pray to be given eyes to see, ears to hear. Pray that you might comfort, as God has comforted you.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."
(2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV)
PS. If you do reach out, please do so in a considerate manner. Here are some practical tips. Ask about what affects them - take notes if you need to. I don't know anyone who would feel anything but loved if you cared enough to write their needs down. If they have allergies or sensitivities and you want to visit, wash your clothes in an unscented detergent. If they have allergies, don't visit them wearing clothing covered in something they react to (mold, animal hair, etc - and remember, they can and will react whether you see it on your clothing or not - if it is in your house, it is on your clothing). If you want to cook them dinner but don't know what to cook, ask for suggestions. Don't feel badly calling and asking about every detail in the dinner - that simply shows that you care enough not to poison them. Most people like this do not mind answering question after question. Don't use the fear that you may hurt them as a determent. If you don't want to help, don't. If you really do want to help, just ask.