“Let’s skip tomorrow and just go to the next day,” my four year old implored as we prepared to trek to the doctor’s office to assess a possible allergy. My son was understandably nervous and did not want to intentionally be exposed to something we suspected was the cause of several anaphylactic reactions he had previously experienced. I wanted to alleviate his anxiety and tell him everything would be just fine, but the truth was the appointment might be tough. As I looked for words of comfort, I leaned into my faith and reflected on what comforts me most in difficult moments: knowing I’m not alone.
The appointment was grueling, at times scary, and when we left the clinic eight hours later we were exhausted but thankful for an official diagnosis. It’s been several weeks but I can’t get his suggestion out of my head. “Let’s skip tomorrow.” What a clever notion, to simply skip a difficult moment. It got me thinking through the countless times over the course of my life that I’ve wished for a fast-forward button to breeze through dreaded experiences.
It’s not as though I am under an illusion that I won’t have to endure uncomfortable experiences in my life. Even when I do my best to avoid difficulties, it’s not completely unexpected when challenges arise. We all experience difficult times and there is plenty of conventional wisdom offered as a response to provide encouragement and comfort during challenging situations – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, no pain no gain, everything will work out for the best, those types of sayings. However, I do not find these well-intentioned sentiments particularly encouraging or comforting when enduring a trying time.
When my son requested we skip the day of his appointment, I struggled with how to best respond. I didn’t know what the day would hold and couldn’t promise he wouldn’t suffer a severe allergic reaction. I could try to distract him with thoughts of his reward, a toy of his choosing, for successfully enduring the appointment, however, that would not answer his questions or calm his fear. I realized what I could do was remind him that I would be with him through it all, that I wouldn’t leave his side, that he wouldn’t have to worry about going through the experience alone.
Being reminded that I’m not alone, especially in difficult times, comforts me. This brings to mind a powerful sermon I heard several months ago. The pastor began by referencing information on what has been proven to offer the most comfort to someone experiencing a crisis, reassurement that they would not be alone through the difficult experience. He continued by discussing Jesus’ promise that we would not be alone, reading from the fourteenth chapter of John, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you…you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” How comforting to be reminded that we are not alone. To know that God is with us always, that God lives in us. I believe God sends people into our lives when we need to be reminded that we are not alone, and that God can use us to be a comforting presence to those around us.
We will all face difficult experiences throughout the course of our lives that will run the full range of the scary scale. Some of my past anxiety-inducing experiences include: my first night away from home, a car accident that broke my back, and when I hemorrhaged after delivering my baby. Upon deeper reflection of those experiences, I realized what was the most comfort for me during those times was knowing I wasn’t alone. Before my first night away from home, my mom gave me a stuffed guardian angel on whose wings she had embroidered Psalm 91:11, “God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you wherever you go,” a gentle reminder that I was not alone even when I was away. After the car accident, a friend held my hand while we waited for the ambulance to bring me to the hospital. After delivering my daughter, my husband stayed by my side as medical professionals worked to stop the bleeding. The comfort I found was not in empty promises that everything would turn out for the best, but in physical manifestations that I was not alone. I found peace not in pithy sayings that I would come out stronger on the other side, but in the powerfully simple reminders that I was not alone.
I will not always be able to prevent uncomfortable, painful, or fearful moments from being experienced by myself, my kids, or those around me. I don’t always have the most comforting or encouraging phrases to share. I can’t just simply say that things will work out great or that the difficult experience will produce a positive outcome. The truth is I have no idea what the future holds. I can, however, hold a hand and stay. Hopefully, there can be times when God will use me to provide comfort through the human presence of His reminder that He is with us always. I know there will be many more times in my life where I’ll wish for a fast-forward button or an option to “skip tomorrow,” but I can take comfort knowing that through it all, I will not be alone.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having recently relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*