It’s the age-old question, which all of us at one time or another, have asked:

Why does life have to be so damn hard?

We met her at a coffee shop. It was the question on her mind. Her life has been hard. Damn hard. When she thinks about it all, sometimes she gets angry. She wondered:

If we are made in God’s image, why would this God allow his children to suffer so much and in so many ways?

As a mother she would do anything for her children, she told us. She would rather take on their pain rather than see them have to carry themselves. And she asked:

If we are God’s children why, if God loves us wouldn’t God take away our pain and sorrow and suffering too?

We think that she expected us to give her a patented answer, a platitude, as so many others have done with her. Things such as:

In order to enjoy our freedom, there must consequences if we make bad choices
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
If God brings you to it, God brings you through it.

None of those statements have ever comforted her.

At one point she had someone lay hands on her and pray that she would be healed of a chronic and painful condition. She believed that it would work. But it didn’t. She still has the condition, and it severely challenges her trust and her faith.

She believes that God promises to give goodness to his children. It’s an honest request, isn’t it, she asks, to have something good come into my life? Not a selfish one either? We could see the frustration on her face. Her clenched teeth and hands. Her posture, defiant. She is angry with God. And she was trying to feel us out to see if we, too, would give her another platitude. She was surprised, gratefully so, when we didn’t.

I (Tom) asked the same question last night, I told her. I’ve been dealing with this condition called fibromyalgia for the better part of several years and it’s not gotten better. In fact it’s gotten worse. I was in such pain that I was ready to put my hand through a wall.

We could see her comfort level begin to increase. She got it. She feels incredible anger, too, those nights when her pain is most intense. She was so grateful to know she wasn’t alone.
The one thing of which we could assure her is that God is with her in the pain, that just being with us is a supreme act of love. We don’t know why the pain has to be there and we didn’t pretend to know. We didn’t try to fix her, because we can’t. We tried hard not to offer her any clichés, because they just aren’t helpful. We simply met her in her pain. We listened to her express it and allowed her to express emotions that she was feeling. Being able to share in it with her didn’t take her pain away. Certainly not. It didn’t make the questions more easily answerable. But it helped her make it through another day. Sometimes that’s simply enough.

Some have said to her:

I know what you’re going through. I know how you feel.

No. That’s simply not true. No one else does. No one can fully know or understand what anyone’s specific pain is like. All we can do is just walk through it beside them, just be present with them when life is so damn hard.