It’s been a rough couple of weeks… not for me personally, but for many people I care about.
My dear friend lost her perfectly healthy husband to Covid-19 at the age of 49. A precious woman, whom I greatly admire, has been battling stage 4 cancer and was given the dreaded news that her tumors are growing and spreading. They have called in hospice for pain management. Another sweet friend shared with me that she has spent the last month with her parents in another state as her father is in hospice care and her mother in palliative care. She is taking turns with her brother to care for them one month at a time. A fourth very special sister in Christ is watching as someone very close to her struggles with a progressively brutal disease. And then yesterday I had yet another sweet woman text to let me know her young sister with special needs had passed away and was being laid to rest the next day.
These are just a few of the extremely heart-wrenching circumstances that people I care about are living through. As their friend, as someone who loves each of these women, lately I have just felt overwhelmed. The weight of their sadness and struggles has been a heavy burden for my heart. Even though I am not the one personally going through any of these circumstances, I have been heartbroken for each of them. More than once I have cried, just trying to process what they have been enduring and feeling useless to help their situations. It has felt like just too much. Have you ever felt like that? I imagine that if you have formed any sort of relationships with people, you have at one time or another. It’s part of the human condition.
In situations where there seems to be, barring a miracle, no hope this side of heaven, what do we do with the burden of loving one another? When there is no tangible way to make it better or encourage them in their pain, what can we do? There are no words. I’ve said that to more than one of these precious souls. “What can I do for you? How can I pray for you?” I ask. I listen, I cry with them, I do pray. But how do we pray when we don’t have the words? When our petitions to heaven seem hollow and weak, is there anything encouraging to hold on to?
Romans 8:26-27 offers, in times like this, a hopeful truth. “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I don’t know about you, but I have definitely felt like I simply don’t know what to pray at times. In faith I thank God that the Holy Spirit prays on my behalf! When our pain, sadness, hurt, fear, worry, or burden for others is too much for us to bear on our own, the Holy Spirit Himself goes to the Father for us, praying in the perfect will of God in a language He understands. He doesn’t even need to use words, because He and God are one, and God understands His groanings. Although I cannot fully comprehend that, it gives me some measure of comfort and peace. I pray that it does the same for you.
I'd encourage you to look at each person with whom you come in contact. Really look at them, acknowledge their humanity and realize that each and every one is going through something. It may be the day she’s said goodbye to her husband or baby sister; it may be the day he’s received a dreaded diagnosis. She may be holding the hand of a parent who doesn’t remember her anymore. Perhaps he has suffered a job loss and is on the verge of financial ruin. Life happens all around us. Sometimes it seems heartless and cruel, but we don’t have to respond with impatience, short-temperedness, or ugliness. Be kind. Love like Jesus loves. Be willing to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Have faith enough to ask the Spirit to intercede for you when you don’t have the words.