Our son was in the hospital. He was one patient among many. Watching your child suffer in any way is excruciating, exhausting, and shreds your heart to battered threads.
I have done a lot of thinking about the millions of families who are going though painful seasons. 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 to many.
But God has used this time in our lives to make my heart sensitive towards those who are walking through valleys of suffering, pain, uncertainty, and grief. I will never think of them in the same way. My prayers will be 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. 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 who are in the trenches? Here is what we have learned through example:
- Pray for them. Pray with them. When I lacked the words to know how to pray, one of the greatest sources of comfort were those who prayed with me. Hearing their prayers ministered to me greatly.
- Be a source of encouragement. 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, “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. 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 to keep kids entertained.
- 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… and don’t expect to be asked. If you don’t hear a family that is hurting askfor 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.
May we always saturate those who need it most with our love!
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18