How do you deal with suffering? I don’t do too well. I’m like my father, who used to say, “I don’t mind suffering in silence, as long as everyone knows I am suffering.”
But what about the flip side? How do you handle being with other people who are suffering? Are you able to be present with someone who is suffering when you have no answers and no cure?
Miss Daisy was a lovely lady who worked at the drug store where I grew up.
Miss Daisy always greeted me with a smile. She helped me find what I needed. She made the most delicious milkshakes at the soda fountain side of the store.
And she was always a good shoulder to lean on through the mini-dramas of high school life. She would send me out the door with a reassuring word and invitation to tell her how everything worked out.
I worked at the local hospital as a nurses aid during the summers of my nursing school years. It was there I learned the sad truth that many who enter the helping professions have one weak spot.
They want to eliminate suffering. When they find themselves powerless to do so, they look for ways to look the other way and silence suffering.
They may do this in any number of ways from drugging their patients in the name of comforting them or in simply assigning someone else to observe the suffering.
So it was that I received my assignment to “go sit with the lady who was dying.” I was told to “come get the nurse when she’s gone.” The lady was Miss Daisy.
I entered the room filled with dread. She looked up at me and smiled the old familiar smile. She was weak, but she spoke my name lovingly.
“Carolyn, have you come to be with me today?”
I nodded and sat down and held her hand. Her hand was already getting cold. I said little, because I did not know what to say. And yet it seemed she was comforted by just my presence.
As I watched her irregular breathing come and go like tides being blown off their regular course, I felt helpless. Everything I was being trained to do was directed at how we could save people. And yet, I could not save her.
The tides of breath eventually went out and did not return.
There were so many other times of powerlessness through my years as a nurse. So much suffering without cures. So much suffering resulting from doctors trying anything that might be a cure.
I became part of the conflicted “wanna be saviors” who could not save. I became part of the culture that looks away, not only because of our powerlessness to save, but also because we fear the time will come when we cannot be saved.
What can we do with this burden?
Look around and see the beauty in the world. Recognize it is God alone Who can take an ugly seed and transform it into a beautiful flower.
Recognize He is God. We are not. He alone knows The Plan He has for each of us. He alone is The Creator. He alone has The Power to transform suffering into beauty.
Recognize our Power lies in accepting His Open Invitation to join Him and connect with Him through prayer.
Jesus asked His Disciples to stay close by and keep watch, as He began His Suffering in The Garden of Gethsemane.
“Stay here and keep watch with Me.”
When He found His Disciples sleeping, He told them again to “watch,” adding “and pray.” (Matthew 26:41)
We are called to see the suffering around us and to recognize it as a call to prayer.
Our prayers, as always, should be one of thankfulness and praise to God. We can thank Him that He is God, with All Power to intervene with Compassion, Mercy and Love.
We can thank Him that He has invited us to allow His Compassion, Mercy and Grace to flow through us.
We can ask Him to show us specifically what He wants us to do. Sometimes He will direct us to intervene in a physical way. I was brought to Miss Daisy’s bedside to be with her and hold her hand.
Sometimes He will direct us to watch and pray. He will tell us from what vantage point we are to watch and pray. Sometimes it may be at someone’s bedside. Sometimes it may be from a distance.
We must recognize that our assignment is in place until the suffering is over. We cannot quit because we tire or become afraid.
Like the faithful midwife, who stays the course through a difficult labor, we stay in prayer in faithfulness to God’s Call.
We do what we do because of His Call, not for any payment. And yet we are rewarded in abundance. In our time of suffering, He is merciful and will bring to us those who deliver His Mercy to us.
“Blessed are The Merciful, for they shall be shown Mercy.”
Who is God calling you to pray for today?