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Getting Uncomfortable: Community & Suffering

I am achingly lonely. A kind of lonely many special needs mamas come to know all too well. What was thought to be just a phase in my daughter’s journey with Autism is proving to be…not a phase. The behaviors we experience with her at home are very different than what the rest of the world sees; much more dark and much more painful. Specifically, her behavior towards me. The kind of relationship I’d always dreamed of having with her started out very differently. I adjusted the dream to meet reality…and I adjusted it again…until the dream became an entirely different one altogether. Despite intensive, in-home therapy and continuous advice from specialists, the battle continues with no end in sight. My family, as a whole, is suffering. I feel helpless. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, depression wrapped its hands around my heart. The days are long and the nights are longer, as I lay awake thinking about all that I can’t control, all that is uncertain, and all that is lost. I hurt in a way I’ve never hurt before; in a way that no one around me understands, about things no one around me can see.

This painfully isolating experience is not uncommon. There are so many special needs families struggling daily behind closed doors; fighting for our families. Part of the reason this journey is so lonely is simply the nature of it all. It’s hard for anyone outside the family, anyone not living it, to truly “get it”. Yet, there’s another reason that I, and many others I’ve met, feel so alone: This journey is uncomfortable and, in our humanness, we want to be comfortable…even if that means avoiding walking alongside the ones we love when they’re making their way through the wilderness. Whether we want to admit it or not, we naturally avoid what doesn’t give us that warm, bright feeling inside. We want to interact with the Facebook version of everyone’s lives. We don’t want to chance entering someone else’s darkness, when we’re all dealing with darkness of our own. But here’s the deal…

This is what we’re here for.

We weren’t created to simply be. Just you or just me, alone. That’s not life. We were created for community, and we were created that way so that we could care for each other in the good times and the bad. We are each other’s support system. Every one of us is designed with both the need to be supported, an the need to support; with needs, and the need to be needed. It fills us and gives us purpose. We are all on mission. God gave us a mission to spread His love and His love doesn’t run from pain, it enters into it. It offers a hand to those drowning, a heart to those broken…His love doesn’t hide from those living the uncomfortable. It seeks them out.

I left the need to present a having-it-all-together version of myself behind a long, long time ago. It’s not hard for me to admit that I’m feeling depressed and a little hopeless about our situation. It IS hard for me to admit that I wish someone would enter into it with me. I fully realize that God is here. I know that He won’t forsake me. I know that He sees my tears and walks towards me, not away. I don’t always know that about His people. After years of prayer, I finally have a handful of friends who have been willing to show up in the midst of our wilderness seasons. Words can’t express how much I value these precious people. Yet, my heart hurts for all of those still aching for someone to reach into their loneliness and discomfort. As I read this passage from Job yesterday, I loved how it gave a clear picture of what friendship and community should look like in the midst of life’s struggles:

“When they heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to demonstrate their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. And no one said a word, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” 

Helping someone in crisis is not about saying the “right thing”. I’ve found that there usually isn’t one certain thing anyone could say that would help ease the pain. Sometimes, our suffering is far too great for words at all. These are the places only God’s love can reach. He invites us to go there for each other; to step into each other’s suffering and grief. To experience it alongside one another. Though helping others will bring us joy, at times it will also bring us pain. It will make our hearts hurt. It will be very, very uncomfortable…but this is how our hearts grow. This is how we change the world, for others and for ourselves.

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