There are two schools of thought when it comes to responding to friends and family going through a medical morass or the loss of a loved one. The first is to wait for time to pass before sending a note or paying a visit to allow for privacy during a difficult time. Prayers are silently lifted up, but they remain in the background until the morass has subsided. The second school of thought is to relate with those suffering by being there for anything and everything. Which school do you attend?
I used to be the first person, feeling inadequate, not knowing what to do for fear of causing more pain. But my church and my Emmaus Community showed me firsthand what showing up can do.
When a member of our church lost her husband, her large family gathered at her home. Meal preparation was overwhelming and the last thing on her mind. Members of our church signed up to bring dinners. When an Emmaus member was admitted into the hospital’s ICU for a pancreatic cyst and possible kidney failure, members of his wife’s Emmaus reunion group took turns to sit with him during the hours she had to work or needed to sleep. When ICU asked if we were family, we stated “Yes, we are church family”. The nurses were anxious at first but when they saw we were not creating a problem but in fact helping, they looked forward to having us help. When I had my coronary artery bypass my good friend, Donna simply showed up to sit with Thad while I was in the six hour surgery. She felt called to do this because someone had done so for her husband when she had major surgery. It had meant a lot to her husband and she wanted to pass on that comfort. Recently, when Thad’s elective shoulder replacement surgery turned into a second emergency visit to the hospital for a colon bleed; family and friends phoned, texted, and lifted us both in prayer. We were buoyed by those actions and felt God’s presence through them.
I could write a laundry list of stories where just showing up and allowing yourself to be of service has made the difference between isolation and comfort. I know you may be thinking that all the phone calls and visits can be overwhelming. They can. The person facing this adversity can choose to ask for privacy and those wishes need to be honored and respected. In either case, the person going through this difficult time is being shown that they are cared about and loved. You can’t fix the problem, nor take the pain away, but you can be there – to be the hands and feet of Christ.
There are many ways to show you care: a phone call, a card, a text message asking “Can I pick up the kids from school? What can I do to make today easier?”, driving them to the hospital, helping with arrangements, delivering food, airport pick-ups and delivery, doing laundry, babysitting, grocery shopping, answering and making phone calls. Sometimes, simply sitting with them quietly listening, praying, or just being with them so they are not alone is a major gift. There are a myriad of ways we tell people they are loved and being thought of during their time of adversity. The message is clear – you care about this child of God.
God calls us to be of service and in relationship with one another to encourage, carry, and conquer. Through our relationships we encourage one another in growing our faith. Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV tells us “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another… “ Through our relationships we help carry each other’s burdens to lighten the load – Galatians 6:2. And together, we conquer our fears, pain, and loss. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NASB states “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
We are called to be in community with one another and you cannot be in community unless you show up. Show up, assess the situation and look where you can help. Sometimes it’s a “Martha” moment, sometimes it’s a “Mary” moment. Whatever it is, you will be there to help. You don’t need the right words, the solution, the quick fix; you just need to show up.
A friend recently told me she learned a valuable lesson when her husband died. “Relationships are not important – they are EVERYTHING! Anything else is just stuff.” It made me realize that when I pass on I will not take any of my “stuff” with me but I hope to both take and leave the memories of those relationships I nourished and nurtured.
So the next time, you see a friend going through the morass of medical malaise, forget what you have learned at the “Wait and See” School and learn from the “Community Relationship School of Christ”.
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there is their midst.” Matthew 18:20 NASB
Is there something you did to help a friend during their time of need? What ways do you show you care?