On New Years Day I was feeling optimistic. The year ahead looked exciting and full of promise. This is going to be good, I wrote in my journal; letting down my guard and anticipating an abundance of good news and good times. Barely five days in and those rose-tinted glasses began to crack. We woke up remembering, more acutely than usual, the sad day we said goodbye to a happy friend. That afternoon, we were shell-shocked by a fresh new grief; precious friends had lost a precious gift they’d waited years to receive. A one off, I hoped, remembering five years past; no year can possibly be as bad as that. But, alas, the cracks keep coming. Friend after friend, prayer after prayer; every week has brought a fresh new blow… How can 2015 feel so long ago?
And yet… Ask me how it’s going, and I can honestly tell you we are fine.
Sat on our little island of simple, familiar bliss; how can we possibly help our friends, when our lives still look like this? It strikes me that there’s a fine line between empathy and guilt; a no man’s land between helping and hindering; a tightrope connecting personal paradise and communal, platonic pain.
We are not the ones on fire; but we can feel it burn. It’s not about us; but we are deeply hurt. This is a post for all the other discouraged cheerleaders out there; helplessly imploring the referee, on the sidelines of a game gone wrong. You are not alone.
Continue to count your blessings
The first time I found out I was pregnant, I revelled in my time and my story. It wasn’t until our daughter was born that I began to appreciate fully the pain of those still longing. So I started to pray. This prayer kickstarted a journey into intercession that I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of. And it was here, in the midst of my most obsessive lobbying, that I found out I was pregnant again. Within the joy and the excitement, I’ll admit there was something else; guilt. How come the prayers I so desperately pray for others are only being answered for me? How can I be so happy, amidst so much frustration? Thankfully, one particularly beautiful friend explained; “it’s not people enjoying what I want that’s hard to bear; it’s the ones who don’t even see it as a blessing.” She made me realise afresh the importance of enjoyment; even when the backdrop is bleak. Beating yourself up won’t lessen someone else’s pain; and complaining can only add to it. Instead, hold your loved ones a little tighter; tell them you love them a little louder; and don’t waste the good times worrying that they’re undeserved. Make them deserved, by making them count.
Be the best friend you can be
The most shocking thing I learned from someone experienced in tragedy, was that they actually lost friends through it. People ‘gave them space’ because it was too uncomfortable to give them anything else. Another friend was deeply hurt by someone who didn’t let her get a word in; they couldn’t bear to listen, so they gave her no opportunity to speak. Good people in bad situations need good friends. Largely, this involves listening intently and agreeing unfortunately that yes, this is shit, and you don’t need me to pretend otherwise. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12). Sometimes that’s all we can do; and it’s often all they need.
Don’t give up hope
When Moses’ arms, raised high to pray through the battle, began to drop; his friends, Aaron and Hurr, stood either side and held them up. The friend I spoke of earlier contacted me in the middle of her grief… to ask how I was coping. Honestly. I was pleased she knew how much I cared, but gutted that my self-involvement was so predictable. Yes, these situations may cause us to despair and struggle and lose a bit of faith; but this is not the time for that.
I am not Moses in this picture.
I am the support act.
I am Aaron.
If you are also an Aaron, feeling a bit like a Moses; look around you. You will see Hurr. You will see others, stepping up to share the weight. Take heart from the ones who look stronger than you and encourage those looking to falter. And when your own arms do begin to buckle under the strain; look behind you. You’ll see that you are not alone. Not only should you have your own Aaron. Not only should you have your own Hurr. But Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary with heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11).
You may be Aaron.
I may be Hurr.
But thankfully, God will always be God.
No matter what.