We’re called to love our neighbors. But that isn’t always easy. What if we don’t know our neighbors, or we’re not sure how to start? Who are our neighbors, and how do we love well? (in)courage exists as an online community committed to making safe spaces for women to connect over topics just like this one. Every Wednesday this month we’ll be sharing some of our stories about discovering how to love our neighbors. We hope you’ll read along and then join us in a weekly Community Challenge geared toward discovering who God is calling us to love and some practical steps we can do together.
Week 2: Four Things We Can Do In Our Pain to Help Ourselves and Our Neighbors
My husband reached for his phone and his finger paused mid-dial. I turned to ask him who he was calling, but I stopped as a shadow of grief clouded his face and I knew . . . for just a split second, he forgot she was gone.
I put my hand over his and reminded him forgetting was also part of healing.
Losing Rhonda, my husband’s sister and my dear friend, left a void in our family two years ago. Life has moved on, like it tends to do, but it’s different without her amazing laugh and fun personality. Grief is the kind of pain that constantly changes but never completely goes away. It’s the kind of pain you have to live with.
Pain is often the norm in our lives, not the exception. Think about all the seasons of life and how each brings beauty and happiness and often pain along with it. I once heard we wouldn’t recognize joy if we didn’t first know pain. We experience it in so many ways — through physical suffering, depression, financial struggles, betrayal, new seasons, and grief.
Pain feels helpless. And sometimes hopeless.
Recently, our family took the challenge of memorizing Psalm 23 together. My husband and I learned it as children, but it was fun to relearn the passage with our kids as we quoted it verse-by-verse around the dinner table. As I listened to my 8 year old say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” she stopped and asked, “What does that mean?”
“It means that every life will have valleys of pain, but Jesus is with us, so we’ll be okay,” I answered.
“You mean like our neighbor?” she asked.
Exactly. I thought about about how we’ve been able to use our grief to empathize with others. I believe God redeems everything, even our pain, especially our pain. He uses it to connect us with other people — our friends and neighbors who’ve walked a similar path or who will walk it in the future.
We don’t always know how to move past our pain or help others do the same. Here are are 4 things we can do in our pain to help us through it.
1. Pray. This may sound obvious, but God wants our sorrow. He longs for us to pour out our anger, worry, uncertainty, doubt, grief, and fear. He wants it all. Action: Pray through the Psalms — one every day. These moving, honest prayers will help heal those broken places.
2. Reflect on what God has done. Sometimes we need a change of perspective. Remembering what we’ve faced and how far we’ve come often gives us the courage to continue. It may not always feel like it, but this is evidence of God’s love for us. Action: Make a list. Write down things He has done, while you wait on Him to do more.
3. Believe in what you can’t see. We don’t always understand the trial, the why’s, or the reason behind our pain. We question and wonder and worry while we wait for a reprieve. God is faithful. He is with us. Even when we can’t trace His hand in our lives, we can trust that somehow, someway, He is good. And He will work for our good for His glory. Hold on. Action: Memorize and quote Psalm 23 daily.
4. Look around you. There are often people in our lives who have either faced the mountain looming in front of us or who are a mile behind us, ready to scale it. We can either receive encouragement from them or be an encouragement to them. God does not waste our pain. He uses it to redeem us, and we can use it to help others. Action: Write or call a friend today and remind them they aren’t alone.
We all took turns quoting from memory Psalm 23 and celebrated with ice cream.
I think Rhonda would have loved that.
One of the best ways to love our neighbors is to see them, really open our eyes and look past the surface smiles and the “How are you’s?” People on our street, girlfriends at church, moms in the car-line might just be experiencing unimaginable pain today. The next time you see someone going through a tough time, stop and listen. It might help both of you!