The more ill that my dad became, the less I posted about it on social media. I didn’t feel comfortable asking for prayer again, because things were not turning out the way that I wanted. My prayers were not being answered. My dad wasn’t getting better, he was getting worse. I was overwhelmed and heartbroken. He was fighting a hard battle with cancer and our story was an exceptionally long one of four years. Cancer journeys are tedious and the caregiving is difficult. I was sure that no one would care to scroll through their newsfeed and see the continuous heartbreak we were experiencing. Another part of me just couldn’t let myself be that vulnerable. In hindsight, I see with much greater clarity the reality that we often share our highlights and happy moments on social media, but neglect to share the struggles. I was certainly guilty of doing this very thing.
The more difficult and painful our story became, the quieter I grew. I desperately wanted our story to be one of healing — or recovery. I wanted to share that our prayers were being answered, that my dad would get well. The struggle of being faithful when healing and recovery were not happening was not something I could put into words at the time. I was just stumbling through it. Sometimes our greatest heartbreaks become the defining moments along our personal journeys of faithfully walking with God — and sometimes those moments are lived out quietly.
Ultimately, I found that social media was not the place where my need for true friendship and connection would be met during that time. Of course, there were friends on Facebook that I could have reached out to and they would have been there for me online, but it wouldn’t have been the same genuine connection found in the presence of another.
God wants us to connect. He wants us to share in each other’s burdens, to pray for each other, and to support each other in tangible ways. Jesus himself told us, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20, NIV. The hardest things in life have a way of making us feel small and vulnerable. There were days when I couldn’t put my feelings or needs into words and all I could manage was to curl up in a ball and cry. It’s during those critical moments in life when we realize our significant need for the special people who know and love us intimately to gather around us.
Inevitably, there will be times in our lives where we need to allow other people to be there for us and to accept the support they offer. And likewise, there will be times when it is our privilege to come alongside others during their painful experiences. Life is full of difficult seasons — and often, when we are in the midst of one, it feels like it will endure forever. But it’s along the difficult paths that our hearts grow tender enough to see the hurt behind someone else’s facade of “I’m fine, thanks”.
I remember when people would ask, “How are you?” and I would reply, “Fine, just getting through it.” But inside I knew that if they could see the truth through my brave words they would see that I was as fragile as glass on the verge of shattering. I feared that if they saw through my facade, I would break. I wanted the connection of someone truly knowing my heart, while fearing it at the same time. If I broke apart, how would I ever be made whole again?
I love the way 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 describes God’s nature as our Comforter. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” NIV I wanted the comfort that I knew I could only receive from God, but I also longed for genuine connection with others — beyond the facade.
ACCEPTING HELP FROM OTHERS DURING PAINFUL SEASONS
Don’t try to be who you’re not. You probably don’t have the energy for it anyway. Allow yourself to be honest and transparent with a few people whom you trust.
Notice the people trying to help you. It may even be someone unexpected. Determine to be okay with accepting meals or other offers of support and care.
Keep your inner circle small. If you are going through something big and you have a huge church trying to be there for you, let someone else be the point of contact person and organize needs.
Forgive people when they don’t know your needs, or when they stumble with trying to find the right words to comfort you. Everyone is on a different journey of learning and trying to connect authentically. Try to see their heart above all else.
OFFERING HELP TO OTHERS DURING PAINFUL SEASONS
When your heart has eased and you find yourself seeing through someone else’s “fine”, you’ll be equipped to step in and offer to be there for them. When that day comes, keep in mind these helpful considerations toward others going through a difficult time.
Everyone’s experience with hard things or grieving will be different. Try to remember that this is about them, not you.
Let the other person set the pace as far as talking or what they feel comfortable accepting for help.
Listen to their needs. They may just want someone to talk with. Or they may be in need of someone to take their young children out for a few hours or to run errands. Listen to what they need, and offer to meet a specific need.
Be okay if you are not the person they need. A loving offer will be remembered, but don’t let your feelings become hurt if they decline. It isn’t about you.
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