I can’t imagine how you are hurting…
I wish it were me instead of you…
If only I could take your pain…
Recently I heard a speaker express the anguish of living through the dark journey of mental illness in her children. For years her two daughters suffered and thus created immeasurable pain for this beautiful mama as she watched, helpless to free them from the prison of their diseases.
She and I shared similar questions–though not as many answers— we shared the journey.
How can we support without smothering?
How can we nurture without being a nuisance?
How can we be a helper and not a hinderance when our kids are in pain?
Americans want to avoid pain at all cost.
We believe pain robs us of our plans for the day and often our dreams for the future. Naturally we want to help our kids avoid pain any way we can.
When our daughter Rachelle and her husband were only two months married they were hit by a drunk driver who was driving a LARGE mobile home moving trailer.
The PAIN was physical (Jake received a pelvis fractured in over 20 places and a torn kidney) mental (this would delay their school and work careers) and emotional (they lost their newly conceived first baby in the wreck). The pain was unbelievable. It interrupted their lives and destroyed hopes. Watching their sorrow was excruciating.
What could we do?
What could we say?
There were no words from well-meaning friends that eased the pain. But often their presence encouraged Jake and Rachelle and therefore encouraged our hearts as well.
As adults in a cruel world we acknowledge that pain is inevitable, and when handled well, it brings growth and maturity. Pain can give needed perspective to our self-focused lives. But how can we apply all those “life lessons” to those who hold our hearts in their hands?
Timothy Keller in his best selling book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering reminds us that our response to suffering should NOT be passive! Keller states four activities we should pursue during suffering:
REORDER YOUR LOVES
These are not STEPS but activities that go on simultaneously or one at a time while we grieve the pain of what is happening in our lives.
These are the same essential steps when the pain is inflicted on our adult children. We grieve. We wail. We admit the pain and the suffering. We reprioritize what is most important. And we hope.
IT IS TRUE: PAIN is always easier to bear for ourselves than to bear while watching those we love so dearly suffer.
But, as we see growth in our own lives through pain and suffering—we must long for that growth and strength in the lives of our adult children as well.
Sometimes— that growth comes at a high price.