Updated: Sep 17, 2020
“Wow, look at that!” my daughter exclaimed as she ran down the aisle in the craft store.
This was a significant event in my eyes. Just a few years prior, she beat the odds of being born alive and endured a heart surgery to survive. In addition, earlier that particular year, she had corrective eye surgery. Even though she had already experienced several medical trails and hardships by age four, she was filled with love, hope, and happiness. Her heart was set on the yearly echo of new hope in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
For several months she had been asking about picking her own Nativity set, and I was more than excited to take her to the store to look at them. Captivated by the various nativity scenes, she walked down the aisle, pondering over each one. Absorbed in the moment with a joy-filled heart, I fixed my gaze upon her, recording the finite details of the occasion in my mind so I would never forget.
As we looked at those Nativity sets, I thought about the story of Jesus’ birth and life. Our Savior was brought into this world in a stable (which probably didn’t even smell very good), not some glorious palace. Throughout His life, He endured suffering and trials of all kinds yet He always responded with love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Story after story we witness people's hope grow as Jesus touched their lives. We read stories of healing in passages such as Mark 6:56 and Matthew 9:20. We are inspired by stories of mercy such as the one in John 8. We are reminded to forgive in passages like Mark 2:2-12. It would be Jesus' sacrifice in the end that would bring us ultimate hope; hope that we will someday celebrate in the presence of our ever-loving Father in Heaven, free of pain and suffering (John 3:16).
Maybe you are fighting a battle of your own, hoping to live a little longer. Maybe you are living with chronic illness or pain. Maybe you feel lonely or unloved. Maybe you are experiencing the pain of divorce. Maybe your loved one is in the hospital. Maybe someone you love is sick or recovering from a surgery. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Maybe you are longing for one more moment to hold someone or tell them you love them.
Contemplating the sadness, loneliness, and unworthiness people sometimes feel, I think about Jesus' life of trials. He knows the extent of sadness and suffering each of us endures during the course of our lives. None of us are guaranteed a perfect life or body. In fact, tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed. As I reflect upon the many stories of Jesus' compassion for others and how He brought hope throughout His life even amidst His trials, the desire grows in me to work harder to help bring a glimmer of light into other's lives when they are dealing with life's circumstances and emotions.
We all deal with not-so-great life experiences. Since we can't know the depth of each person's circumstances or emotions, we can take care to show love and compassion to every person we meet.
I have been immensely blessed by the love and care of others as I felt the effects of various hardships throughout the years. It has often been people’s compassion and love that has helped me feel a bit of joy and hope amidst sadness. Through the compassion and love of others, I have grown. Knowing what I know now, I can’t tell you how much I wish I could go back and correct any instance in which I had been insensitive. Since time machines don't exist, I can only ask forgiveness for instances past. Looking toward the future, I am thankful for gained knowledge that will help me be more compassionate. I am also thankful that I can share what I have learned to help others be more compassionate too.
Just be there. When someone is hurting, it helps to know that someone cares. All it takes to show you care is a visit, a text, a card, or a phone call.
Just listen. Even though advice may be well-meaning, tips on what someone should try to do to feel better are not helpful. Furthermore, statements on what someone could have done to avoid an illness can cause them to feel deeper pain. Often when someone is grieving or in pain, when it comes to words, less is more!
When people share their tears, reassure them that God knows their hearts and pain and that every ounce of pain felt by any person is important to God. As God’s children, each one of us is ever-so-precious and loved. Refrain from talking about your pain or experiences when someone else is sharing theirs. This could cause them to feel as if you are rating or devaluing their pain.
Instead of asking a generic question like “Is there anything I can do?” think of something specific that would be helpful if you were facing those same circumstances and ask them if they would feel comfortable with you doing that specific thing for them. If they are receptive to your suggestion, thank them and let them know it fills your heart to be able to do something for them. If they are not comfortable with any of your ideas, respect their wishes and let them know you are happy to help if they think of anything you can help with. Here are some ideas for ways in which you can help or comfort others: bring them a meal, invite them out for coffee, mow their lawn, drop in with some chocolates and tissue, donate to a cause that would have meaning to them in their name, or give them a special ornament that would remind them of someone they are missing.
Don’t judge! The only living person that truly knows what they are going through is the person experiencing it. That person is doing the best they can. They may be gathering up all their strength just to get out of bed amidst their pain.
There are times I have been thankful to be able to show others I care, but there have also been times I cope with pain or sadness.
Holidays or other personal celebratory moments can magnify emotions. In fact, statistics verify that tough emotions settle into many people’s hearts during times of celebration. Since sadness doesn’t take a vacation over the holidays, I would like to share some ideas for activities that have helped me cope during times of celebration:
Do something that creates new memories.
Do something in memory of your loved one.
Let perfectionism go.
Change things up. Keep some traditions or routines while stopping others.
Help others by giving or volunteering.
Do something for yourself. (put on music or a movie that you enjoy, do a craft, paint your nails, do your hair, etc.)
Spend time with family or friends.
If you are like me, you might be inclined to wear a mask that shows you are strong, faith-filled, and able to cope on your own. The following ideas may be hard for you, but I encourage you to try them. You may find, as I have, that being humble, sharing feelings, and letting others show you acts of love can let a little sparkle shine through the saddest of moments. Rest assured, some day you will feel that same heart-filling reward of helping others and radiating your compassion into others’ lives.
Ask others to help! Some people just don’t know what to do but would love to help in any way they can.
Accept help! If someone wants to help you, remember how helping others fills your heart. If you are not comfortable with what they are offering, tell them. You can suggest something you are comfortable with, or you can tell them that you are uncomfortable with their idea but are open to other options.
Give other people grace! Many people think they are helping when they give advice, though in reality they may be deepening the wound. I have felt the effects of deepened wounds from such advice, but what helps me is telling myself that they care. They just don’t know how to show they care in a way that helps.
Cry, cry, cry…it’s okay…I am a firm believer that healing is achieved through feeling.
Let someone hold you quietly, hug you, or just sit with you as you let tears run down your cheeks.
By showing compassion and loving one another, we can help each other remember the Christmas story and feel the effects of new hope not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.
What has helped you cope with sadness or grief during holiday seasons past? Do you have any ideas that can help others who are feeling the effects of the fragility of life? Please share your suggestions on how to help spread love and hope below.