A couple of years ago, I was feeling really sorry for myself. Out of nowhere, a fluke accident caused me to tear my biceps tendon—snap! Big ouch. A couple of weeks of pain and a sling, followed by surgery, followed by eight weeks of immobilization in a stiff brace. As a writer and a graphic designer, losing the use of my dominant hand was the kind of challenge I just didn’t want. I couldn’t do any of the things I love—writing, using a computer, even eating. Showering. Brushing or curling my hair. Signing a check or charge slip. Jotting new activities on the calendar. Writing quick reminders on post-it notes. Grocery lists. Addressing an envelope. Filling in the answers in my Bible study book. Scribbling insights in the margins of books I’m reading. I typically spend lots of time with a pen in hand (a Tul medium point blue gel pen, to be precise). I love filling pages of any kind with my handwriting, smooth and glob-free thanks to my trusty pens.
But alas, for those two months, nada.
And I’ll admit it—I was a bit of a whiner. I didn’t feel good, I was inconvenienced, and my husband couldn’t do anything the way I wanted it to be done.
Soon, cards started to arrive in the mail. Friends—people I think highly of but didn’t know well—sent me cards… Actually stopped what they were doing and hand-wrote cards, which they stamped and mailed. When was the last time I did that? People sent texts, showed up with gifts and delicious carryout food, and I was touched by the helpful tips about managing pain sent to me by one friend with chronic conditions she’s learned to work around.
But the most humbling moment came when my friend Sherry walked into church one Sunday. This sweet, sweet woman has several serious medical issues and had recently fallen, hard, further injuring her already painful, messed-up back. She slowly walked into church, leaning on a cane, grimacing from the effort. Yet she lit up when she saw me, threw her arms around me, and said she’d been praying for me and worrying about how I’m doing.
She. Had been worried. About me.
When we’re hurting, when we are facing a big change (whether emotional or physical, whether tragic or just a big ol’ inconvenience), our natural response is to close in. Let our world get smaller. The pain blinds us to everything else, defining our days and confining our thoughts to ourselves. We—or at least I—become hyper-aware of my limitations and physical discomfort and it’s all I can think about.
Those who are not defined by their circumstances. Those who use their experiences to embody their compassion for others. Those who understand that even in pain, even in sorrow and hardship, God reigns. He never leaves. He’s not angry or punishing them. He loves and soothes and comforts and forgives and teaches and reveals and enlightens—whether we’re in pain or not. Whether we notice or not.
Just as I saw the compassionate heart of God through my friend Sherry, we can reach inside ourselves to lighten someone else’s trials or troubles. Through friends, God reminds us that no matter how lonely we might feel, we are not alone. We are not forsaken. We should not despair. He is so much bigger than the circumstances. He transcends our troubles, and we can too—by leaning on Him. He has given us sisters for such a time as this, and when we allow our love for God to lead us, we can become the vehicle through which God transcends the difficulty of the moment and brings to light something that is beautiful and humbling. Friendship laced with compassion and kindness will improve just about anyone’s day—and remind them just how much Jesus cares.