Michelle Hamel considers the power of friends who help us as we face life's storms, through prayer, presence, and acts of service.
Last year, my family went through what I (un-affectionately) called "Second Lent." I remember that we had almost made it to Holy Week. The days were getting warmer. There was more daylight, which is always an amazing feeling after the long, dark days of winter in the Northeast! The hope of spring was starting to poke its way into my heart as winter and Lent were quickly drawing to a close.
And then we received unexpected news that my then 20-year-old son, Peter, who is severely affected by autism, was going to need surgery. The recovery would be at least three weeks at home where he would need constant reminders and monitoring to be sure he stayed in a position that did not cause his large incision to burst open. It would also mean every.single.one of his daily routines that help to keep him emotionally regulated would not be happening. My stress levels were through the roof as I tried to comprehend all the extra demands I was facing as his mom and caregiver.
Less than a week later, my husband, Jay, was dropping off our 85-lb. black lab, Josie, at the vet for surgery to remove a growth in her ear. Jay’s finger got caught in her collar as Josie tried to jump over him when he opened his door. His hand was broken in five places, and he ended up in a full hand cast. Because my husband is a physical therapist, he ended up being out of work for 10 weeks!
It was a really hard season. One of the lessons those heavy weeks taught me was about the deep need of community and authentic friendship. I was a hot mess when I learned Peter needed surgery. It was more than I could emotionally bear at the moment. I was angry with God for sending such hard burdens when I already had other heavy crosses that I was struggling to carry.
A few of my very closest friends started praying for me in a very special, specific way with virtual Adoration in the first fifteen minutes of their day. I didn’t find out about their sacrifice until many months after Peter’s surgery and recovery, but I’m convinced that it was those prayers and those of our family and parish family that helped to get us through such a difficult time. It was truly beyond me to get through it on my own.
It’s easy to fall into the sin of self-sufficiency. Trying to root that out of my life is proving harder than I thought. It’s often hard to even recognize it. White-knuckling through hard things is something I’m pretty good at. I think a lot of people are. But that white-knuckling can leave a trail of emotional wreckage that’s just as deep as whatever momentary trauma we are trying to get through. White-knuckling makes me close in around myself. White-knuckling keeps my head down, staring at my problems and pushing through to the point where it will be “over.” It keeps me self-protecting and trying to just take care of myself to somehow minimize the hurt. It gives me a false sense of control in life situations that are so uncontrollable.
When I’m being self-sufficient and self-protecting, my focus is turned inward. The very act of trying to protect myself is causing more harm because it's leading me away from God. Ann Voskamp writes in Waymaker, “If your heart’s curved inward, moving forward is going wayward.” White knuckling is just moving further away from God and true healing.
There are storms in life that are so extreme that we get thrown out of our boat. As we struggle to keep our heads about water, choking and being beaten by each huge wave, God always sends a life ring. Sometimes it’s directly from Him, with a verse that manages to reach down, touch our hearts and calm the sea that rages around us. But more often, that life ring comes from a person in our lives who reaches out with a text, or a hug, or a visit that manages to pull you back into the boat to ride out the storm together. We weren’t meant to carry our burdens alone.
Sometimes we’re the hurting people that need to send out an SOS, and sometimes we’re the people that are responding to someone in distress. It’s not easy to be either. It’s hard to be humble and vulnerable, admitting that I’m drowning and need help. It’s also hard to be obedient to the Holy Spirit's nudge to reach out to someone without knowing all the details.
If you find yourself in the middle of a storm, reach out and grab hold of that lifeline!
If you’re the one questioning whether the whisper to reach out to a family member or friend is from God, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. (Sirach 6:14-15)
Copyright 2023 Michelle Hamel
Images: (top, bottom) Canva; center copyright 2023 LovePeacePrayers.com, all rights reserved, used with permission.
About the Author
Michelle is a wife, mom of eight, and grammy of 3 (with more on the way!). She spends her time reading, writing, and searching for good recipes to cook for her growing family. Her favorite things to do include spending quiet time in Adoration, shopping for baby clothes, and planning vacations. She loves to write about topics that feel God-inspired in order to encourage and comfort women. Michelle blogs at Normal Chaos.