So how do we respond?
In part two we shared about what God has said to us during our time of disappointment. What does all this that God has said mean for us, especially when God does not do the miracle we want, when we face pain and loss? How do we respond in a way that is best for us? I am sure there are a multitude of healthy responses, but here are 3 that we have discovered to be helpful for us on our journey thus far.
Learn how to mourn
In Matthew 5:4 we read: “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted”. Here we see that Jesus is teaching us to choose the path of mourning when we have experienced loss or disappointment. Note please that it is not the fact that we are going through suffering that is a blessing, nor does it automatically result in receiving comfort. Its only when we choose to mourn will we receive comfort. If we choose rather to run away from our pain, to deny it; try to find a short cut around the pain; or pretend the pain isn’t there then there is no promise of comfort. Mourning means facing our pain – and although this feels hard, this is what will bring us comfort and healing.
For me a real turning point was when I started sharing honestly with my friends about our struggles. One of our big hurts was seeing our friends kids develop healthily and normally, when Matt’s development was slow. We were nervous about sharing this pain with them because we didn’t want them to feel like they couldn’t rejoice in their kid’s milestones, or that they had to tiptoe around us. So often when we were socializing we would sit with sore hearts, but pretend like everything was ok and that Matt was normal. It took courage to raise this topic but it has been very healing for us, and our friends have responded so graciously.
Allow God and others to comfort you
We have a choice to suffer on our own or to make ourselves vulnerable by sharing our pain with others. God has made us to be part of a body and he chooses to use people to show His love to us.
I have for many years been an independent person and very capable. For me it was hard to accept help. I am normally the one giving help, not needing it. I have learnt that there is a choice involved in receiving the comfort that people bring, that God brings. We have been blessed by our church leaders coming for supper to hear how we are doing and to pray with us. Sometimes I will get a text message with an encouraging note from a friend. Other times someone will come up to me after church because they felt led to pray with me or share an encouraging verse with me. These have sometimes been so timely, often when I have been feeling low. In those moments I have to choose to receive what is being offered.
I have learnt that in those dark days when I could so easily sit back and think no-one cares, that is actually the moment when I need to reach out for comfort. Even though I feel terribly vulnerable doing so, I am also learning to initiate and ask for support – to phone a friend to say that I am struggling, to ask someone to come around for a chat. Lloyd and I have started inviting people to “prayer parties” where we tell our friends what are needs are and ask them to pray for Matt. These times have been so crucial in our journey towards healing.
Allow God to show you how He can transform your suffering into good.
As mentioned above God has a mysterious way of transforming suffering. We read in Romans 8: 28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
Philip Yancey puts it so beautifully (from Where is God when it hurts? P 231) – “How would the world be different if Jesus had come as a Superman figure immune to all pain? What if He had not died, but merely ascended to heaven during his trial before Pilate? By not making himself exempt, but deliberately taking on the worst the world had to offer, He gives us the hope that God can likewise transform the suffering each of us must face. Because of His death and resurrection, we can confidently assume that no trial – illness, divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy, grief – extends beyond the range of His transforming power.”
It means choosing to trust that somehow God can take this terrible disappointment and weave it into a blessing that brings hope and meaning into an otherwise very dark experience. Somedays this has been the only reason I have gotten up in the morning – especially in the first 6 months of Matt's life when I was feeding Matt every 3 hours - but he would take an hour to feed and then I would express milk for the next 20 minutes. This meant I only had 1 hour 40 until his next feed – and this would go on day and night. So I never got to sleep more than 1hour 40 at one stretch. And that was when everything was going smoothly, if Matt would vomit up his feed – which he did on average 2 or 3 times in a 24 hour period it would add another hour of feeding into the day. I was exhausted whilst also trying to work through big words like Mental Retardation, Developmental Delay, Non Verbal, but at the same time try desperately hard not to think about the future fears – what happens if I die? Who will love him? Will he have to live in an institution one day? There was a flicker of hope that I was not alone, and somehow God can make something good come out of this. That is what got me through those dark times.
Certainly now that I have come to a place of acceptance of Matt’s syndrome and I have gotten to know his personality, I am deeply thankful to have him in my life. He is teaching me more about humanity and love than any other individual has, and I trust that God will use him to be a blessing to others also.