How to ‘pain’ with someone

Be present in someone's pain

Be present in someone's pain
My teen had her throat ripped out this week. Please indulge my dramatic way of sharing she had her tonsils removed; I’m a bit sleep deprived. I find it interesting that in all the post-op literature, I didn’t find the note: Parents of teens: Prepare to return to an infant-sleep-schedule. In order to manage my girl’s pain, every 4 hours, jarring digital bells alert me it’s time to serve  “Pre-Dawn Pain Be Gone” cocktails…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My daughter is a trooper, but this is incredibly painful for her.

Being near her over the past few days. memories over a decade old are stirring. The intensity of her pain has reminded me of the days my sisters and I stuck close to my mom as she dealt with cancer. Apples and oranges to a degree, but pain is pain. One connecting thread between the two events has emerged as I’ve loved on my little one this week. It’s not something that I articulated when we were in the throes of caring for mom, but the truth is timeless: It is a tender and precious privilege to be allowed this close to someone’s pain.

PAIN IS PAIN

People hurt deeply on relational, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental levels. When I’m invited into a person’s pain, it’s a privilege no matter what the cause. While it’s my joy to journey with them, their pain can become a transferred pain if I don’t interact with it well. Maybe that’s why some folks shy away from being near pain. Perhaps we fear we’ll take on their burden and be debilitated by it.  As I prayed this week, God brought to mind some of His wisdom regarding how to be present in someone’s pain.

HOW TO “PAIN”
  • Don’t be Jesus: Especially in relational, emotional and spiritual hurts, but true in all pain, our job is to point people to the true Healer. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in being there for someone that they begin to rely on us for healing instead of God. They increasingly need assurance from us. They begin to quote our words instead of His. Their pain transfers to us as its host. We need to be wise, pray before coming alongside and continually point them to healing through prayer and His promises.  Isaiah 53:4-5~Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
  • Be on hand, not handy: Why do we feel the need to “fix” things? Probably because we see the brokenness. However, the best gift we can give is to allow a hurting person to ‘be’. If we’ll listen, we can discern when he/she is ready to take a step toward healing. It sounds odd, but even physically hurting people need the space to be overwhelmed in their pain before they can embrace taking steps toward wellness. Not having to be alone in that space is a gift we give and a privilege we’re granted. Put simply: Listen and don’t tell them how to get over it. Be present in their pain. James 1:19~My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
PRAY PAIN AWAY
When we’ve been in the presence of intense pain, it’s human nature to absorb it. We feel the way to honor someone’s pain is to feel the weight of it on us. However, that equals us trying to be Jesus. He is the one who has the ability to heal, not us. Our job as we travel on a painful path with another is to have a burden for prayer. As we lift the weight of their pain to the Lord, we are ‘doing’ the best thing we can for them. When the Lord leads us to act, then we are His hands and feet. By praying their pain ‘away’, we remain available to help them with clarity as the Spirit leads. And we’re available for the next hurting person we meet.
pain bearable with God
May we respond to pain with prayer.
May prayer lead us to respond to pain in love.

 

 

I care; You share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

I had coffee with a friend today. I thought we were getting together to laugh. Turns out, we got together for a lesson.

During our conversation, she shared a profound truth, and I asked her to write a guest post on my blog. For you to fully grasp the power of her message, please allow me to share the highlights of what my friend is facing:

  • Her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, has cancer
  • Her 17-year-old son has been dealing with the legal system all year. He was recently released from a psychiatric hospital stay. After a 3rd violation of his probation, they have court soon to determine if he will stay in the home or be placed in the system.
  • Her father-in-law lives with them. In the last month, he has been hospitalized twice with mini-stroke symptoms.
  • Her mother lives with them and, in the last month, has also experienced health issues.
  • My friend has her own mental health journey that is challenging to navigate with all these stressors.

…and we think we have problems? But wait: Capture that thought. My friend, Amanda Meers, has a word regarding that ‘thought’, and I believe we all need to hear it.

Amanda’s insights

I tell you these things, not so that you will feel sorry or have pity, but to acknowledge that sometimes it feels like God gives us a triple plate of life. Most people would prefer these things to happen on individual plates at different times in life (if they have to have them at all). Some people, like me, get all of the plates at once. I have a nickname amongst some of my friends, Jobina (the female Job).

I am often told, when reaching out to different people in my life, that what’s going on in their world is nothing compared to what’s happening in mine (whether they know all of it or only about Sarah’s diagnosis). This is a huge pet peeve of mine!!!

Let me explain:

Yes, everything happening in my life (taken individually or all together) is a lot for anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that the trials happening in your life are any less important or significant than those happening in mine. It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges. If you or someone in your life is going through a hard time—whether it’s a cold, the flu, a baseball bat to the face, strep, issues at school or work—it’s all hard, it’s all scary, it’s all traumatic, and it’s all life. We are in this life together. We are supposed to share so that we can lift each other up in prayer.

Going back to the fruit example (apples and oranges): We are all fruits picked by God. We’re all different—whether you consider yourself an apple or an orange. We have different sizes, different colors, different bruises. When God picks us, we are placed in the fruit truck, all headed to the same place—but our journeys are so different.

Sometimes when people tell me “Well, I know my stuff is nothing compared to what’s happening in your life,” it feels like this means you think that I can’t or won’t or don’t want to pray for you. Praying for you and what’s happening in your life takes the focus off my life. I want to be other-focused. I want to pray for you. So many have been faithful to pray with and for us. By not allowing me to pray for you, you are denying me a blessing. Even if you factor out the friendship and love I have for you, we, as Christians, are meant to pray for each other. Praying for others is my job. If you are not sharing your prayer needs, you are depriving me of the opportunity to do my job. I can pray for you (and I do), but if there are specific things I can be praying, I want to know so we can go to the Father together in prayer. We are not meant to carry our burdens alone—no matter what they are.

We're all fruity. Let's show we care. Let's share.

Great job, Jobina. Thank you for permission to not compare my apples to your oranges. Thank you for praying for my apples as I’m praying for your oranges. Thank you for the invitation to be fruity together. 

You can reach Amanda at ameers2002@icloud.com

What are you crazy about?

It’s Valentine’s Day, or—as I mentioned in a former post—Cupid Stupid Day. While not a fan of being told when to tell the people I love that I’m crazy about them, today gets me thinking about the idea of being head over heels for something/someone.

I am crazy about all things pumpkin spice. Unlike pseudo pumpkin lovers out there—the type whose hankering for pumpkiny-goodness emerges only when it’s chunky scarves and boots time—I am the real pumpkin spice deal. My crazy is not seasonal. It’s a 365-affair. I am dedicated and faithful to my crazy.

You know how they say, “If you looked up the definition of crazy, my picture would be in the dictionary.”? Well…

Pumpkin spice (PS) coffee is my jam. Again, some people think this is a seasonal drink. Silly pseudo-PS’ers! This clovey love-in-a-mug should weave its steamy magic year-round. To accommodate my crazy, I had to find a way to ensure I could have PS coffee January-December. A few years ago, I came across the idea of ordering a year’s supply of PS coffee from Keurig at the end of their selling season. If that seems a bit much, just wait; there’s more.

The first year I did this online, I got to the checkout screen and was asked, “Is this a gift?” I thought, “Why yes, it is” and clicked affirmatively. A new screen popped up with the best question ever, “Would you like to send a gift note?” I thought, “I certainly do” and tapped a note to myself thus birthing a new tradition: To me from me. Below is 2016’s “Note to Crazy” offering…

As crazy as I am for PS I am more crazy for JC—Jesus Christ. I love Him, and on this Valentine’s Day, my heart is overflowing with wanting to celebrate the One who loved me before any others did. (We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19) I love Jesus. He is my first thought in the morning and my last thought in prayer at night. I see Him all around me—in good times and bad.

This week, I had the privilege of talking with a couple of friends as they are navigating some shocking situations in their lives. I’ve listened as they mechanically unloaded the details of their living nightmare until tears broke the stoic dam holding them back. I was overwhelmed. Their pain made my head spin. As the story unfolded, I was seeing what they were seeing: swirling chaos. What in the world could I say that would help their hurt? Answer: Nothing. However, with wisdom, I’ve learned: When you don’t know what to say, don’t talk—pray.

I prayed asking for wisdom and healing.  Each time, He delivered. THIS is Who I’m crazy about. The One who can take every hurt and cover it with peace, clean it with power and convert it to purpose. The situations are still difficult, but God—invited in for a new dose of His understanding—is the great game-changer. His loving wisdom is better than anything, and I’m crazy about Him.

I have this sitting beside my bed.

I love me some PS, but I love Jesus better than pumpkin anything. From the definition at the top of this article, I am #2 crazy about Jesus. I’m extremely enthusiastic, passionate about, enamored with, keen on and infatuated with Him. This is how I love Jesus. He’s not dry and distant. He is One to get fired up about.

Are you enjoying this kind of love with Him? If so, give a huge bouquet of grateful Valentine’s Day prayer to the One who loved you first. If not, message me and let’s get you connected to someone who can help. Let this Valentine’s Day ignite a passion that never lets you down.

 

Turn your “OW” into a “WOW”

When life is hard, that pain = ow.

I’ve always equated hard times to giving birth. If you, as a couple, knew exactly how long labor pains were going to last, you’d pace yourselves. Let’s say you knew that in exactly 14 hours and 36 minutes it would be over. Even at the 12-hour mark, you could pant, “Only 2 hours and 36 minutes to go! Hanging in there!”. However, when labor pains transform a normally lovely woman into a sweating, red-faced mess of “hee hee hoo”, the unrelenting agony can trigger a loss of perspective. The only goal is to get it over with.

Difficult seasons in our lives feel this intense. Emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually it can seem as through we’re drowning in the Sea of Ow. During these times, we’re not able to see when–or if–there will be a guaranteed end to the pain. We can be so consumed by the situation that it’s hard to see any point to the “ow”.

Many people know the story of Job from the Bible. He is the poster child for suffering through a ton of unfair circumstances. In every way possible, Job was afflicted. In Job 30:20-22, he’s had it.

I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
    I stand up, but you merely look at me

You turn on me ruthlessly;
    with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
    you toss me about in the storm.

Have you ever felt like that—maybe even feeling it now? Everything you wanted…everything you hoped…everything you worked for – gone. Perhaps, like Job, you have called out to God and told Him how you think He ought to handle the situation. And, as in Job’s case, maybe God didn’t do things the way you wanted them done.

When the ow is overwhelming, we can lose perspective. Yet, the most inspiring people are those who share their story of surviving a crushing challenge. But honestly…? It’s easy to be inspired when the pain is over. Think childbirth again. Labor stories are about intense pain that lead to the wonderful “wow” outcome of holding a new baby. Rather than waiting for life’s situational agony to pass, is there a way to help our “ow” become a “wow” as it’s happening? Let’s consider Job again and take some cues:

  1. Don’t waste your suffering. To be blunt: You have to deal with whatever is happening to you, so you might as well suck it dry for every lesson it can teach. As you open your eyes in the morning and the reality that the “ow” is still there washes over you, convert that pain to prayer. Ask God to show You what you need to learn. Job mostly wallowed in his pain and spun his wheels—not a great role model for this point. Ask yourself: Am I praying as much as complaining?
  2. Understand there is purpose to your suffering. Like Job, you would never intentionally put yourself into a hard situation. However, certain things can only be learned in the hard, dry, dark places of life. The most interesting people are those who have walked through a pit, come through and now share what they’ve learned. I say all the time that while I wish I hadn’t had to go through the ugly times, I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything.
  3. Take strength that it’s a season. After the Lord gave Job the equivalent of a spanking, He restored Job’s life (Job 42). Sometimes, there is no way to “go back” to how things were. Loved ones die, families dissolve, homes are lost, relationships are severed. I’ve discovered a simple truth that has allowed me to handle hard times with peace. God never wants us to “go back”. He always invites us to move forward. As we stay close to Him in prayer, take comfort from His Word and His past faithfulness, He’ll begin to gift us with a glimmer of the “wow” that could be ours because of the current “ow”.

Are you in the middle of an Ow? I’m praying that you’ll be able to suck it dry and see that this season will lead you to become more than you thought possible.

Have you survived an Ow? My prayer is that you are actively looking for how you can help someone else who is currently hurting.

The only difference between “ow” and “wow” is that first “w”. Let that “w” = a win in your life.

 

Doing battle in a bathroom ~ How to pray without ceasing

This week I got a call from a friend, Ashley, who was in the middle of a discouraging bathroom makeover project.  Her initial plan had been to remove the decades-old wallpaper, but she fought the wall and the wall won. The house has a few years on it and the wallpaper wasn’t properly applied. It’s never good when you begin to question if you might be doing structural damage to your home as chunks of sheet rock join the discard pile.

She regrouped and put a new plan in play centering around finding the just-right shower curtain fabric. Hitting the web, she came across the perfect pattern only to discover it wasn’t for sale anywhere. After 3 hours of futile searching, she thought she’d have to find something else. The next day, she texted me a picture of the original fabric, told me why she loved it and said, “But I literally can’t find it. Like it doesn’t exist!”

In a moment of right thinking—I wish I did this 100% of the time—my response was an application of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing”.  I texted this to her—not really knowing if/how God might respond:

 

1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” How can we do that?

At a preaching conference, several years ago, I heard a solid interpretation of this verse. Devereaux Hubbard said, “Pray in the rhythm of life.” As we go about our day, if we talk to God about everything we undertake, we’ll be praying without ceasing. The NIV Life Application Bible carries this note: We cannot spend all our time on our knees, but it is possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. A prayerful attitude is not a substitute for regular times of prayer but should be an outgrowth of those times.”

Nothing is too small to bring to God.

Back to my friend. Later that afternoon, I was waiting in the school parking lot for my daughter. Knowing how resourceful Ashley is, I thought, “If she can’t find it online, it probably can’t be found.” However, with nothing else to do, I started searching for that fabric. I cannot begin to tell you what kind of a search I did, but within 3 clicks, God not only led me to the fabric, but directed me to a site where it was massively on sale. I texted her to see if it was the right pattern and got the equivalent of a text jaw-drop in response.

The point of this story is not how great I am at searching the web. The point is the lavish love of God. Will He always answer by directing in ways like this? Of course He won’t—but there was a bigger work going on. Let me share (with permission) how my friend reacted when God provided what she asked.

Last night, after I ordered the fabric, I spent some time with God thanking Him. I was feeling a bit of guilt and shame for not immediately turning to Him for EVERYTHING and needing that reminder (nothing crazy, just acknowledging my sinful nature which is always uncomfortable). I was going on and on about how loved I feel and how grateful I am and I got this sense of “Hush, just look around. It’s so much bigger than this”. I’m realizing God is using this remodel to teach me how He’s growing and remodeling me.

 

I have been praying for guidance on where I could have a “war room” [for prayer]. I feel like there isn’t an inch of space in this house where I could take over and call it all mine…a place I could go to pray FERVENTLY and do battle for me, my family, our church and our country. God also took this time with Him to show me that, yet again, I’ve put too much emphasis on the details and not on the main thing. He said to me, “Be ready, child. We are building your War Room right now! Get to work!” As I spend time working on this bathroom, I’m going to be praising God the whole time. I’m going to go to battle in the bathroom!

You may be battling things that are bigger in life-scope than finding the right fabric.

You may be frustrated that your day is filled to overflowing with “things not going your way”.

You may be feeling far away from God.

You may be looking to go to your next level with Him.

Whatever season you’re in, the pathway to a breakthrough is the same:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • Rejoice—be glad that you are known by the One to whom you are talking.
  • Pray without ceasing—talk to God in the rhythm of your day.
  • Give thanks—no matter the situation or outcome. God doesn’t create nor delight in evil, but He will be with you through it.

New Year’s Resolutions – I do not want to want to

I resolutely do not make New Year’s resolutions. I’m all about setting goals – it’s just that I seem to react when anyone tells me I “have” to do something on a certain day.  It’s like Valentine’s Day: 2 thumbs down from LMR—I can’t stand it.  DON’T tell me that February 14th is the day I must tell the people I love that I love them.  Look, if they don’t know it before and after Cupid Stupid Day, we have a problem. But I digress….

While making New Year’s resolutions is on my “uh uh” list, I relate to how this time of year causes us to pause and consider if we’re where we want to be in life. Every one of us has areas in which we’d like to improve. If only we could make the changes by simply thinking about them…

Yet, strangely, it’s the thinking about them that can be the first step to failure. We look at a change we need to make and thinking about how hard it’s going to be may be the very reason we never begin. The time, pain and sacrifice would be worth it, but we can sense the self-denial, smell the sweat and feel the fear of what it’s going to take more strongly than we can touch the victory that seems so distant.

Several years ago, I hit a wall in a relationship and it felt as though I was being crushed. As I considered the yawning future, my overarching thought was, “Oh well, this is my life.” Maybe I had an idea of what it would take to fix it, but the self-denial, sweat and fear seemed so overwhelmingly real that I couldn’t take even a small step toward right thinking/action. I remember lying in my bed one morning trying to come to grips with this sort of half-life that was to be my destiny. I was soaking in a smelly pot of, “Since this is the way it is, settle for becoming less than you are and very little of who God made you to be.”

Then I remembered, or—more accurately—was reminded by God of, one of the most powerful prayers I had ever heard. It was designed for situations like mine, but in my quagmire of despair, I had almost drowned instead of reaching toward its strength.  Here it is—the most powerful prayer I know when a person needs to make a big change:

Dear God: Please help me to want to want to fix this.  Amen.

On my bed, that’s what I prayed. Honestly, I didn’t think God could do anything with it. It wasn’t like I was “praying in faith” and doing a mighty work on my end to prove to God I was worthy of His help. All I could do in that simple prayer was acknowledge that I hoped there was some way this could get better while not really seeing how it was possible. At the end of the prayer, I still felt crushed.

Over the next few months, I kept that as my daily prayer, “God, please help me to want to want to…” There came a time when the prayer changed to, “Dear God, I actually want to fix this now…”  And then my prayer evolved to, “God, I thank You for how You’re working…I’m surprised, but you’re changing me and I’m grateful.” For me, the “fix” took 3 years, but I’ve never looked back. The self-denial, sweat and fear that had seemed like obstacles are now distant memories.  I still shake my head in wonder because I approached this “need to change” by bringing very little in the way of my ability to do anything about it.

Are you facing a challenge in taking steps to advance your career? Are you needing to get healthy physically, financially, relationally or spiritually? We think we need to massively clean up our stuff so God has enough room to do a mighty work in us. In truth, He only needs a tiny space to get started.

I have 3-4 big areas I want to “fix” in my life. I’m not resolving to get them accomplished, but I am being prayerful about wanting to want to and looking forward to how God leads.

…maybe I’ll knock them out as a Valentine’s Day gift to myself ?