In our small town, death notices are posted on a bulletin board at the Post Office. Folks slow down on the way to their mail boxes to scan the names on the little cards. Being a small town, the odds of knowing the person are pretty high. After looking at the name, one looks at the age. Oh, this one lived a long life! Death is always sad, but easier to accept if the person had been blessed with the gift of many birthdays.
This past week, one card stopped many in their tracks. It announced the sudden death of a young, 28 year old man. He was a school friend of my eldest son. Hubby over-heard two elder gentlemen of the community wondering out loud about this too-young-to-die notice. What happened? Another told the sad truth. He had taken his own life.
We never have to look far for intentions to pray for. But, sometimes our lives are hit with a tsunami of sadness. It`s one piece of bad news after another. A young father, a friend of a friend across the ocean, dies suddenly leaving behind a stunned and grieving wife and young children. Young and old battle the scourge that is cancer. Some win the battle. Too many lose it leaving behind incredible sorrow for family and friends. On Saturday, a young mother from a neighboring town slid into an oncoming semi-trailer on a winter highway and was killed instantly. Her 4 year old twins were with her, and are still in hospital.
It is easier to give a moment`s notice to sad news, and then try to let it go. Why dwell on it and make ourselves miserable? Why bring all this negative energy into our day? We have enough stresses of our own to worry about!
Nothing we say or do will take away the horrible pain of deep loss. And, yes, thinking about the reality of loss can make us feel pretty low, even if our relationship to the person is at arm`s length or more. What, then, must the pain be like for those directly involved? The thought of losing my 28 year old son is too much to bear. How does the mother who is living this reality bear it?
Sometimes, the only thing that we can do is pray.
Praying for another is to commit to entering into the sadness, even if for a moment. It means offering them up to a loving God who always hears our prayers. It means giving words to another`s wordless grief. It is a hope that the pains we feel from a distance may in some way lessen the pain of the one who is experiencing the immediate hell and agony of suffering and loss.
It is offering a spiritual shoulder to lean on, even if the person has no idea that you are praying for them. It is joining hands with a compassionate communion of saints in circling the suffering soul with love and support.
5 thoughts on “oh God, hear our prayer…”
When I read what Isabella said: “…joining hands with a compassionate communion of saints in circling the suffering soul with love and support”, I wondered why there is so little of this type of compassion ever expressed? Is it because of a “happiness mentality” that is spirituality toxic and has painted us into a corner?
Gerald May in, “Will and Spirit”, talks about the “happiness mentality” and says this: “The basic assumption of the “happiness mentality”, in spite of considerable hard evidence to the contrary, is that if one lives one’s life correctly, one will be happy.”
The happiness mentality prohibits the experience of living through painful situations, and fully feeling and being in the sadness, and grief, and fear that are a natural part of human existence.
More important to what Isabella wrote above is what May says about how this affects others: “the biggest inherent defect in “happiness mentality” is it prohibits sensitivity and responsiveness to the suffering of others”. We don’t want to be with someone who is going through a hard time, or is indeed suffering, or has lost a spouse, or has gone through something significant, we avoid that place. What happens is, we isolate the people who are really experiencing these things. The real sadness of this life is that in really critical moments of our lives, the really passionate moments of our lives are done in isolation, and because of the happiness mentality, in shame. As if we should be shamed for feeling what we are feeling in our human experience.
The happiness mentality maintains that first one must organize one life towards the absence of discomfort, but even if one manages to accomplish this for even a brief period of time, the terrible pain in the rest of the world still exist. This is part of our American consumerism, as long as I am comfortable; don’t create any discomfort in my life. I don’t care if someone down the street has no food, or health insurance. The “happiness mentality” says as long as I am taken care of, and I am not in discomfort, I don’t want to know anything. And if you are speaking the truth, I don’t want to hear it.
“Private happiness can exist in the midst of public suffering only if it is based on delusion.” (Carl Jung)
There is a lot of truth to this theory of `happiness mentality`, Ray. How many times do we try to take this path with our children? It`s our responsibility as parents to keep them safe and free from harm. But, we cannot guarantee them happiness. There will be times when they fail. There will be times when they are teased or ostracized. There will be times when they are treated unfairly by teachers, coaches, bosses, etc. There will be times when they experience the heart ache of loss. We must teach them how to handle the stresses and sadness in life as well as rejoice in the joys and happiness.
Thank you for sharing this…
I loved the post and I love this comment. I often wonder if the United States would be a different place if we didn’t add “pursuit of happiness” to Life and Liberty. What a set up for disaster. Your post made my heart ache – ache for a man who didn’t have the tools to seek help even if it was available; to the family – forever changed and for myself because my youngest is so struggling with sadness right now. The reality is that though we constantly say “the only thing we can do is pray” that indeed in God’s economy is the most valuable. Thank you so much Isabella.
Joining you in prayers for your youngest, Marilyn. The happiness mentality is so starkly true when we or our loved ones are walking through the darkness. Loving God, hear our prayer….
I would also like to add that when “lives are hit with a tsunami of sadness” I do pray but also those prayers seem empty if not accompanied by a “ministry of presence”. Many times I do not have the right words to say to others, so i try to be present to them such as bring a meal to their family, offering my personal help, but most of all just being present to them. Not running when I see them approach, and by not avoiding conversations around their sadness or pain.
I first learned this when as a new teacher of blind children I was assigned to help children and teachers in a intensive medical day care center. My training was as a teacher of braille, I was totally overwhelmed just walking into this center with these medically fragile kids. So, I used a lot of agency money and bought the teachers equipment to use in their work. I would go into the classrooms and take orders for equipment from the teachers and leave and leave that facility as soon as I could.
After buying them everything they needed, I had no purpose in going into that facility. Then, admitting my total inadequacy, I determined to schedule chunks of time there just being present to the kids and their teachers. Eventually, the teachers seemed more relaxed with me and looked forward to my being just present there with them; and those children that could smiled at me. We were altogether, we did the little we could, and said the little things we could say. We were healed by Presence.
Now I no longer run when I feel inadequate by the sadness or pain of others, I go out of my way on a somewhat regular basis to sit and talk with homeless people having a hot meal; and once a week I visit men in the city prison, I do not have the answers or even the right words to say any of the people I encounter in these situations but I suspect “presence” is changing me and them.
Comments are closed.