So what do you think about pain and hurting? Is it at its core basically the same for all of us regardless of what caused the pain? (Honestly this question is probably best NOT answered if you’re already in pain and hurting.) Can you create a hierarchy of painful things based on the cause? (Is losing a child in an automobile accident more or less painful than your spouse dying from cancer?) Would you discount Nate’s answer? (I’m guessing you probably would, but why? What makes it “stupid”?)
Here’s what I have learned from my life experiences about pain. (You don’t have to agree with these things. I don’t mind, and new experiences may change my perspective completely.)
Pain is pain, no matter what causes it…abuse, illness, loss, death.
Pain is like air, it tries to fill whatever vessel into which you place it…like how air fills a room or a balloon.
Pain can even make a vessel explode if the pain is beyond the capacity and strength of the container…a human heart.
When I think about the question, “What is the very worst thing ever that can happen to a person?” in light of these ideas, I must also ask, “What was the very worst thing ever for Jesus?”
I think most of us would agree with an answer somehow related to His crucifixion. “Waiting in the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested and crucified” is what I think was “The Very Worst Thing Ever” for Him.
So if we want to know what to do when someone is dealing with pain and hurting, maybe it will help to know what Jesus wanted from His friends when He faced His own “Very Worst Thing Ever.”
Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” Matthew 26:38 (NASB)
He asked that they remain with Him, stay with Him, be with Him. “Remain here.” I think that is what we are called to do before anything else, at least at first, particularly when helping someone through something that is traumatic. There will be time to speak later, but listening and just being with someone should probably come first.
As for “Keep watch with Me,” I have always heard that was keeping watch for the Roman soldiers who were coming to arrest Him. Now I’m wondering if maybe “keep watch” might also mean “watching for Our Father’s answer to prayer, whatever that answer might be.”
I think perhaps this path is more difficult than saying things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’s all for God’s glory” or “God never gives us more than we can handle.” (These things might all be true, I’m not sure, but truth is more of a “mind thing” where pain is really a “heart thing.”)
It often takes a special kind of strength to “just be there” and walk silently and supportively with someone through their darkest days. In closing, I would like to suggest that we first apply this next often-quoted Bible verse to ourselves as listening helpers who are dedicated to “just being there” before sharing it with those we seek to help.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
Sometimes it takes a great deal of Christ’s own strength in us to help others, particularly when that help involves being mostly silent and listening. But we can do it, I believe, because Real Life Jesus knows the value of having someone to “remain here” in the painful circumstances and “keep watch” for Our Father’s answers to our prayers, whatever those answers may be.