My eight-year-old son has been having many bad dreams lately. They often come just as he is drifting off to sleep. He will come out of his room and ask me to say the “bad dream protection prayer” again that we say each night and then sit outside his door for a little while. That simple act of my sitting there brings him comfort and eventually he does drift off into a peaceful sleep.
So many people are having a hard time right now. It seems that even in my own small circle of friends, everyone is hurting in one way or another. As one of my friends aptly phrased it, “everyone is under attack.” Unlike a child’s nightmares, these problems are not so easily solved. They might not be solvable at all. The hurts go deep. There is the pain of disease and failed relationships. There is economic pain and lost jobs. There is psychological and spiritual pain. I can fix absolutely none of these problems. Neither can any of my friends. We offer whatever assistance we can which is helpful, but this assistance is like putting a small bandage on a gaping wound. We pray and turn the problems over to God which is of utmost importance, but sometimes we still want to do more.
So, then, what can we do for others in their time of heartache and need? I’m reminded of Jesus suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Then Jesus came with them to a plot of land called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And he began to feel sadness and anguish. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and stay awake with me.’ . . . He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to stay awake with me for one hour?’”
Our Lord and Savior was in the midst of the greatest suffering of His life. He knew what was coming and was terrified. His humanity was at a breaking point. He knew his friends could do little to help him. He would have to face his future no matter what. The pain was not going away. Yet, the thing he desired most at that moment was to have his friends with him. It isn’t always easy to sit with someone in the midst of their pain. It isn’t easy to let the tears fall or listen to the anger and suffering, especially when we know we are powerless to help the cause. It is easy to get caught up in our own pain and feel that we don’t have the time to spend with another’s burden. Like the disciples, we may simply be tired and want to sleep. Yet, sometimes that simple act of sitting with someone and sharing in their pain can be a huge help. We may not be able to alleviate another’s suffering but we can help bear it. Like a small child who takes comfort in the simple presence of his mother, staying awake with another can be a huge help. May we all be there for each other during these difficult days.
by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur