Honor the Pain
by Kim Jones
It is no accident that the book of Job – a story of suffering – was one of the first books of the Bible to be written. In one awful day, Job lost his livestock, his servants, his children, and not long afterward, he lost his health. When his friends came to see him, they honored his overwhelming pain by sitting on the ground with him and weeping “for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2:13).
Although Job’s friends later said things that added greatly to his pain, they at least started out on the right track. Like Job’s friends, many of us desire to help our suffering friends, but we don’t know what to do with their pain. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It is something we instinctively want to avoid. It reminds us that we are not in control, that we are human. Yet there is no shortcut or escape from pain, and, like an infectious boil, pain can only increase when it is left alone.
We honor a friend’s pain first by accepting that it is real, not imaginary. By confirming the reality of our friend’s pain, we give our friend permission to deal with it. We can then continue to honor our friend’s pain by being there, by listening, by crying, and by facing it side by side with our friend. Our willingness to be present in the midst of pain is an encouraging relief, no matter how horrible the pain may be. When my friend learned of her terminal diagnosis, for instance, we cried for hours. There were no fitting words to be spoken, only pain to be felt and expressed.
On many occasions, I watched as my friend tried to share her pain with others. Most of the time, the listener would change the subject or attempt to offer a philosophical explanation for her situation. Whenever this happened, my friend would retreat, forced to face her feelings without the support of that person. The would-be listener lost out on the incredible privilege of helping to bear her burden.
My friend’s experience is not unique. A woman who lost her husband to cancer explains the situation well: “I’m careful about who I share my feelings with. Everyone wants to ‘fix’ me and make my problems go away, but they can’t ‘fix’ this. I just need them to listen, to honor my pain.” So if you have a friend who is enduring the pain of cancer or a friend who is a loved one of a cancer patient, sit with that friend for a while. Listen, honor the pain, and help your friend carry it. Don’t be concerned about what to say; your silence will speak volumes.
A friend is one who joyfully sings with you when you are on the mountain top, and silently walks beside you through the valley.
William A. Ward
Key to Walking the Path of Encouragement
Words that Honor Pain
- I love you.
- I cannot begin to understand the pain you are feeling, but I’m here to be with you.
- I know I can’t make your pain go away, but I want to help.
- Would you like to talk?
- Can I give you a hug?
- Tell me how you really feel. I want to know.
- Do you want to be alone, or would you like a friend nearby?
- I can see that you are hurting, do you want someone to cry with?
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.