I need to start with this:
I often say to people: “you can’t tell yourself you’re not allowed to be sad/disappointed because ‘someone has it worse than you’ – any more than you’re not allowed to be happy because ‘someone has it better than you.’
I really don’t agree with the response “well – it could be worse….” when someone is hurting.
If someone has lost something or someone dear I feel “at least it’s not…” is a completely inappropriate response.
Telling someone it could be worse is NOT a way to help someone through a time of grief, suffering, sadness, or disappointment.
HAVING SAID THAT…
I think sometimes we do neglect to put our discontentment in a wider, or global, or historical context.
This week after working at the malnutrition feeding program, Susan was trying to help a woman at our hospital. She has a child, no husband, and is being discharged. She is being sent home to die because she has advanced breast cancer, and there is nothing our hospital can do for her. She is 25. Susan bought her some painkillers.
This week one of the pillars of our community lost his son. He was only 26. He had finished school, and just completed his first year of University down in the capital. I was the one who broke the news to his best friend. I went up to see the family and ended up walking right behind the father as he followed the body of his first-born son to our morgue. Later as I walked home past the morgue, there were two young men on bicycles, both with wooden coffins of hand-hewn wood just bigger than shoeboxes strapped to the back of their bikes. I assume they were young fathers there to bury their dead infants.
Sometimes finding contentment means putting our own suffering into context.
Being close to those who suffer is not easy. It can cause us all kinds of problems. Our friend & teammate Eric wrote a book about how to come alongside others without becoming crushed ourselves.
It’s not easy, but we need to.
Not just for the sake of others – to help them by at least sharing their pain.
But also for ourselves.
We lose contentment when we think we ought to have it better. When we think we’re being singled out for hardship. When we feel like we’ve been wronged like no other. When we feel like our suffering, our grief, our disappointment, our loss – is somehow unique to us.
We can’t be content if we think we’re somehow being singled out for hurt. We will find contentment when we can be a small part of helping others who are hurting.
Who in your life is hurting … right now? Who do you know has recently experienced loss, or is just in an extended period of disillusion or is struggling? Call them. Now. Text them, send an email. Reach out somehow. Now. Everything else can wait.
This is a gift both to them…and to you.
Father of comfort,
Lord of the grieving,
God of the hurting,
Comfort me in my loss – so I can comfort others.
Give me strength in my weakness – so I can support others.
Show me how you are with me in my pain – so I can be with others.