Our son was in the hospital. He was one patient among many.
I have done a lot of thinking about the millions of families who have children battling illness… especially on a regular basis. I am not going to pretend that, because of our experience, I fully understand what they go through. What we experienced was minimal in comparison.
But God has used this time in our lives to make my heart sensitive towards those families. Watching your child suffer in any way is excruciating, exhausting, and shreds your heart to battered threads. He has used our son to make personal the lives of millions of brave children that go through more than I can imagine. They face their days like mighty warriors in battle.
I will never think of those families in the same way. My prayers for them are forever different. We learned much from those who encouraged, prayed for, and met our needs while our son was ill. Our ministry to others will be more intentional because of it.
“Thank you” to those who taught us how we can better love those who have sick family members. Thank you for showing, “We care, we love you, and we are here.” It gave us peace of mind to know you were surrounding and holding us up. Our burden was not as heavy because of you!
How can we love on families with sick children? Here is what we have learned through example:
- Pray for them. Pray with them.
- Be a source of encouragement to the child and parents. As parents, we faced frequent inner and outer doubts concerning the course of action for our son’s well being. Some of the most affirming words spoken to me were, “You are awesome parents. Way to go to battle for your child! Don’t give up! You’re on the right path!” Those words were like balms on my fragile heart.
- Be intentional. These families need to know that they are not alone because the journey can be isolating. Make contact a regular habit. They need to know you care. Don’t be afraid to ask how they are holding up or to acknowledge their pain.
- Invite them to events even if they won’t be able to come because it means a lot to have received it.
- Be available, reach out, and give. You can do this from wherever you are located! Send texts or message to let them know you are thinking of them. Mail a card to the child and parents. Visit. Drop off a cup of coffee if you heard the night was long. Take a meal, give a gift card to eat out, or have pizza delivered to their home. Mow the lawn. Give a gas card. Offer to watch siblings during appointments or while the parent(s) run errands. Give hope through the reminder of God’s promises with a gift like this. Bring legos, a coloring book, or new puzzle for the kids.
- Give grace…. lots and lots of grace. Drop expectations of the family. It might be that they don’t have the energy to do any more than what is needed to survive.
- Do… don’t expect to be asked. If you don’t hear a family with a sick child ask for help, don’t assume it is because they are prideful or that help is not needed. It might just be that they do not know what they need. (And, let’s be honest, how many of us would feel comfortable asking others to bring dinner over or to mow the lawn?) Think of what you would like or might need in that position and just do it.
For the families who have a child whose “normal” is to battle, I would dare to suggest this: Don’t just bless them during the hard times. Be willing to ease the burden of daily responsibility during the highlights of the journey so that they might better enjoy one another during those times too. Tell that mom dinner is taken care of so that the family has an evening to savor one another. What a gift that might be!
May we always saturate the families and children who battle with our love!
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18