“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 celebrating 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.
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.
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. 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 others have shown me, I have grown. I am 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. Here are some ideas for ways in which you can help or comfort others:
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.
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 act as if 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, asking for prayer, 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 mirroring God's compassion in 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 everyone remember the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."
(Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
THANK YOU, JESUS!
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