We’re called to love our neighbors. But that isn’t always easy. What if we don’t know our neighbors, or we’re not sure how to start? Who are our neighbors, and how do we love well? (in)courage exists as an online community committed to making safe spaces for women to connect over topics just like this one. Every Wednesday this month we’ll be sharing some of our stories about discovering how to love our neighbors. We hope you’ll read along and then join us in a weekly Community Challenge geared toward discovering who God is calling us to love and some practical steps we can do together.
Week 2: Four Things We Can Do In Our Pain to Help Ourselves and Our Neighbors
My husband reached for his phone and his finger paused mid-dial. I turned to ask him who he was calling, but I stopped as a shadow of grief clouded his face and I knew . . . for just a split second, he forgot she was gone.
I put my hand over his and reminded him forgetting was also part of healing.
Losing Rhonda, my husband’s sister and my dear friend, left a void in our family two years ago. Life has moved on, like it tends to do, but it’s different without her amazing laugh and fun personality. Grief is the kind of pain that constantly changes but never completely goes away. It’s the kind of pain you have to live with.
Pain is often the norm in our lives, not the exception. Think about all the seasons of life and how each brings beauty and happiness and often pain along with it. I once heard we wouldn’t recognize joy if we didn’t first know pain. We experience it in so many ways — through physical suffering, depression, financial struggles, betrayal, new seasons, and grief.
Pain feels helpless. And sometimes hopeless.
Recently, our family took the challenge of memorizing Psalm 23 together. My husband and I learned it as children, but it was fun to relearn the passage with our kids as we quoted it verse-by-verse around the dinner table. As I listened to my 8 year old say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” she stopped and asked, “What does that mean?”
“It means that every life will have valleys of pain, but Jesus is with us, so we’ll be okay,” I answered.
“You mean like our neighbor?” she asked.
Exactly. I thought about about how we’ve been able to use our grief to empathize with others. I believe God redeems everything, even our pain, especially our pain. He uses it to connect us with other people — our friends and neighbors who’ve walked a similar path or who will walk it in the future.
We don’t always know how to move past our pain or help others do the same. Here are are 4 things we can do in our pain to help us through it.
1. Pray. This may sound obvious, but God wants our sorrow. He longs for us to pour out our anger, worry, uncertainty, doubt, grief, and fear. He wants it all. Action: Pray through the Psalms — one every day. These moving, honest prayers will help heal those broken places.
2. Reflect on what God has done. Sometimes we need a change of perspective. Remembering what we’ve faced and how far we’ve come often gives us the courage to continue. It may not always feel like it, but this is evidence of God’s love for us. Action: Make a list. Write down things He has done, while you wait on Him to do more.
3. Believe in what you can’t see. We don’t always understand the trial, the why’s, or the reason behind our pain. We question and wonder and worry while we wait for a reprieve. God is faithful. He is with us. Even when we can’t trace His hand in our lives, we can trust that somehow, someway, He is good. And He will work for our good for His glory. Hold on. Action: Memorize and quote Psalm 23 daily.
4. Look around you. There are often people in our lives who have either faced the mountain looming in front of us or who are a mile behind us, ready to scale it. We can either receive encouragement from them or be an encouragement to them. God does not waste our pain. He uses it to redeem us, and we can use it to help others. Action: Write or call a friend today and remind them they aren’t alone.
We all took turns quoting from memory Psalm 23 and celebrated with ice cream.
I think Rhonda would have loved that.
One of the best ways to love our neighbors is to see them, really open our eyes and look past the surface smiles and the “How are you’s?” People on our street, girlfriends at church, moms in the car-line might just be experiencing unimaginable pain today. The next time you see someone going through a tough time, stop and listen. It might help both of you!
Very good blog today. In 1988 I was widowed suddenly. Today I am married and have celebrated many anniversaries with my husband but still miss my first love that died 2 days before Vanentines. I do try to reach out to widows and widowers when God gives me an opportunity.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Mistakenly, I thought I had to be in a “good place” in order to help someone else who was struggling, when actually if I was in the crucible too, there was a “realness” to my reaching out. Instead of being a patronizing well wisher, I was a fellow sojourner through the valley. It’s okay for others to know that we are human too and that God, thankfully, is mindful of our frame. Also, I have found that when I reach out to others when I am struggling, God gives me an extra measure of grace and strength to do so and in the process I am lifted up as well. Miraculous how God works! Thank you so much for the reminders to reach out to others, no matter the state we are in ourselves. I “know” this, but needed a reminder to “walk it”. Thanks.
This is a beautiful post, thanks so much for writing it. I lost my stepfather (who I was as close to as my biological father) six months ago, very suddenly from a heart attack. It’s been a difficult grief-filled road. And watching my mother and children face this type of grief has been overwhelming. I needed this today.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Kristen, Your post was just what I needed. My mom went to heaven Jan 15 of this year and some days I feel so hollow inside missing her so. Psalm 23-it is like a hug from God
Kristen, what a beautiful post. Your words resonate with my heart. Watching friends struggle with their children, your post reminds me to pray for them. One friend in particular is raising boys, just like I am. It’s never easy. Thanks for the action points to help me be better about reaching out to my community.
Thanks so much Kristen! Your words resonate in my mind. We do go through different seasons in life that bring us joy and pain. I feel the pain of seeing my kids grow up before my eyes, and missing the days when they were small and innocent. I agree that if we didn’t have pain we wouldn’t know what joy is. I sometimes forget to think that there may be pain behind the smiles of people that I encounter throughout my day. It reminds me that a smile, a word of encouragement, or some other act of kindness might be all it takes to help someone in their pain. Thanks again!
April Windsor Box says
Excellent post & helpful advice! I love Psalm 23. I also learned it as a child, but recently its been one of the passages I recite to myself during this hard season. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thank you for your beautiful thoughts and words.
Elisa K. says
This is so true. I can relate to a lot of the things that do help me stay linked to God’s heart, even in my worst pain. And I am glad, I am starting to feel like I am ready to reconnect with the good God things that I was becoming painfully afraid of due to my issues.
The little flame for God in my heart is growing again^^*
I will be fully on fire for God and be a kingdom builder again!
Beth Williams says
Beautifully written post. I have often thought that what I or others are going through is for a reason. Yes it will bring us closer to God, but we can then encourage others going through same things.
A dear friend went through breast cancer. Now she is more able to encourage others and pray for them. She volunteers and has for years with Relay for Life. She will talk to anyone going through any type of cancer and pray with you. She has become a champion for all cancer patients.
I agree we need to look past smiles and how are you doing with neighbors. Last year one neighbor lady lost her young (46) son, We immediately got food for them, but time went on. I try to talk with her as often as I can and be there for her. At Christmas I made goodies for her and the family. Just to let her know I haven’t forgotten her family!
I am sharing this with my husband who lost his father suddenly last week. He too had a moment where he was reaching for the phone to call his dad to let him know that we made it back into town. Thanks so much for putting these thought on paper.
Amanda Mack says
My parents were cool. I could go on. They had so many of the richest friends in Christ that to this day they reach out to us, my bro&I. Today was I was thinking about how He (my Daddy) would already have her (my mommy) gift picked out. He would show us with trust and glee knowing we wouldn’t tell a soul……..you see my bro&I lost these two miraculous God fearing parents awhile back. But as always they never leave. I have learned to open up an share them w/my own 4 kids. They had a beautiful time with my dad for a long time……but then in a day while they were gone playing He was gone…… It was heart wrenching to witness my own kids suffer. But God is always faithful. I told them. He always has THE plan. Do not fret. So for your husband with a sister he must have absolutely adored, I say Celebrate her love…..She would expect (i am sure) nothing less, she must have loved with the LOVE OF CHIRST!!!