May I say that one of the most difficult things to do is to watch someone you love suffer. Whether the watching occurs inches away or hundreds of miles away, to know that someone you love is grappling with pain, whether emotional or physical, and to lack the power to stop it is one of the greatest torments. It stirs up a rebellion within you. You can feel the energy course through your body. Your hands tingle with the desire to do something–anything, to act, to defend, to rescue, and yet at times, there is simply nothing that can be done. Now I’m not talking about the fact that there is nothing to do…there is often, thankfully, many things we can do for those who are suffering, many ways we can enter into another’s sorrows in practical and powerful ways. I’m talking instead about when nothing can be done. Nothing can be done to stop the waves of grief; nothing can be done to hold back the great arm of disease or suffering. You are powerless to change the definitive circumstance, and your powerlessness enrages you. The one you love must suffer, must cringe, must ache, and you must watch it all.
As you can imagine, my time with Colette taught me about “side-line suffering,” suffering brought on by being forced to be a side-line viewer rather than a rescuer. Suffering that occurs when you are made to be passive when every fiber in your being wants to be active. For those who have read my book Victorious, you may recall one of my journal entries where I wrote about learning to allow Colette to “drink the cup” her Father had prepared for her. I remember so vividly during that season absolutely hating my role as a “side-line” viewer, holding her down for medical procedures, waking her up for shots, stripping her of her vomit-covered onesies. It was during this time that I saw myself in the story of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. While reading the passage in John 18, I could imagine the scene before me… Christ at His time of betrayal. I saw the soldiers, the mob surrounding Jesus, and there I was in the form of Peter. Oh, poor Peter! Watching as his beloved Teacher and Friend was encircled by the angry mob. I could just hear him thinking, “No! No! No! Stop!!” Then comes that surge of rebellion, that desire to act, to protect…here comes the sword! Oh, yes, Peter…I understood.
So do you, don’t you? Don’t you long to rise up in rebellion? Don’t you long to take whatever sword, whatever power you have and launch it, however recklessly, towards those who stand near. We shoot off words of anger; we lunge at others in exhausted, pent-up rage. We cannot and will not remain still when the one we love is suffering. Like Peter, our natural instinct is to act, to do something–anything, be it right or wrong. If we can’t stop it, then we are going to put all our efforts into blindly railing against it.
But let us stop for a moment and hear the words of Jesus. If we are Peter, then let us listen to Jesus’s response to Peter’s and our actions.
In John 18: 11 it says, “… Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” Jesus, the picture of the sufferer, turns and tells us: put down the sword. Put down the inner rebellion. Let Me drink this cup that My Father believes is necessary for Me. What is this call to submission? This call to passivity? This call to acceptance…Oh, how we would much rather fight than accept. And yet this is what Jesus asks of Peter…step aside, let Me suffer, let Me drink this bitter cup. Accept the fact that this is not a mistake. This is not an accident. This pain is needful and necessary, step aside and let Me drink. Entrust Me to My Father.
Oh, I know this is asking a lot of everyone who is forced into that miserable “side-line sufferer” position, and yet it is what Christ asks. We must step aside; we must stand near and yet not fight. We must allow those we love to drink bitter cups. We must entrust our loved ones to our Heavenly Father. As we do so, we must remember that He, our Heavenly Friend, knows what it is to be in our very position. He knows what it is to be a side-line sufferer. Do You think that God the Father did not suffer as He watched His innocent Son beaten, mocked, tormented and killed? Do you think it was easy for Him to restrain His mighty hand? He knows. He knows the pain of the side-line sufferer. He is near you in your vigil of love; He has grace to help you bear the pain of being near and yet powerless. He is by your side. With that hand of yours that is tingling with the desire to do something, do something…reach out and take His mighty hand. You are not alone.
For more hope and encouragement as you travel through the ups and downs of life follow me on Facebook at Colette the Victorious. https://www.facebook.com/Colette-the-Victorious-103414871575330/
Read my book Victorious: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through the Valley of the Shadow to learn the paradoxical triumph that can be found through Christ alone. https://amzn.to/2LjZcYJ