When someone I love is experiencing pain or frustration of any kind, my first words to them are usually something like, It’s OK. It’s going to be OK.
Well, you know what? When someone is hurting, it’s not OK!
A couple of years ago, my MIL had her first major hospitalization. Congestive Heart Failure was her diagnosis. I remember one day with her so clearly. She was extremely frustrated. I sat next to her, holding her hand and stroking her hair, saying what I thought were comforting words.
She looked at me with her brows drawn together, and said very firmly, It is not ok!
Her moment of clarity, gave me clarity.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in the same place, and the words that previously fell so easily from my lips, stuck in my throat just before I said them.
It’s not OK that my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip.
It’s not OK that she has dementia and doesn’t know where she is.
It’s not OK that she is in pain and has difficulty communicating that.
I stumbled mentally for a moment and prayed, Lord, what do I say? Then I said …
I’m here. You are not alone. You are safe. The doctors are taking good care of you. The Lord is here with you. He is looking after you.
She seemed to settle down for a little while after that.
There are many things in this world that are terribly wrong.
It’s not OK when your best friend walks away and says ugly things about you.
It’s not OK when you’ve lost a treasured item.
It’s not OK when your home is swept away by torrential flooding.
It’s not OK when you find out you have a terminal illness.
It’s not OK when someone you love is taken from this life.
It’s not OK! And it’s OK to say that.
While these things are not OK, we can find comfort and hope in the midst of them.
God cares deeply for us and doesn’t want us to be afraid. In the Bible when He sent His messengers to us wee earth people, the angels almost always approached with the words, “Do not be afraid!” How frightening it must have been to have a glorious creature appear with a message from God Himself.
God has the same words for us when we are facing our own frightening situations.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)
These verses say, “When you go through deep waters … When you go through rivers of difficulty … “ God does not spare us from these things, but He is with us through them. Isn’t that what we need most? To know we aren’t alone? To have someone with us, holding our hands?
When my mother-in-law was more settled, I asked her what her favorite verse in the Bible was. Because of her dementia, she couldn’t remember it off hand, but when I began to quote it to her, she jumped in and said a few of the words with me.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 NIV)
This is her hope!
It should me mine as well.
A stronghold is a fortified place, a safe place. Indeed, the Lord is our only safe place.
Several years ago I had a medical procedure. It was a little scary for me. In anticipation of that, my quiet times were especially sweet as I placed myself in the Lord’s hands. They told me that I would be asleep during the procedure, so that helped, too. Right before the procedure, however, a different doctor informed me I would not be asleep. I panicked. (Just remembering this incident has my heart pounding and my eyes watering.) My husband and my dad were with me. Tim held my hand and they both prayed with me. As I was being rolled into the OR, I silently cried out to the Lord, tears falling from my eyes. I tried so hard to trust. But I was afraid.
Once in there, I talked with the nurse about the situation and began to settle down. Eventually they worked it out for me to be under general anesthesia–but only slightly. What a relief! I thanked the Lord aloud right then and there. It’s the last thing I remember.
Although so much of what happens in this life is not OK, I can take a lesson from my mother-in-law and her favorite verse. The Lord is my safe place. In Him there is no one, or nothing for me to be afraid of.
Certainly easier said than done, but I’m working on it. And praying God’s peace over my sweet MIL as she begins walking through rehab.