Everyone longs to feel loved and embraced by good. But sometimes this sense of peace can seem out of reach. When someone we love feels that way, it can be hard to know what to do or say to help. How can we help others find hope and healing, even at overwhelming times?
In wrestling with this question, I’ve been inspired by an experience a friend shared with me that took place some time ago, when a student in her Sunday School class, whose mother had recently died, sadly and firmly said that he wanted to go be with his mom. The depth of his yearning for her company was understandable, but the way it was surfacing was clearly troubling.
My friend wanted to give her student an answer that would go beyond simply trying to console him about the loss of his mother, as needed as that was. So she did something she’d found helpful in other situations: She paused a moment in prayer to hear the inspiration she needed. She was listening for the Christ, God’s comforting, healing message of limitless goodness and love for all, which underlay the many healings accomplished by Jesus.
This teacher then felt impelled to read aloud to the class the Bible story of Joseph. Joseph’s father, Jacob, loved Joseph deeply and showered him with affection. This stirred up jealousy and resentment in Joseph’s brothers. When the teacher came to this point, she stopped reading. Turning to the class, she said, “You know, I think that if Jacob had known his other children as well as he knew Joseph, he would have loved them just as much.”
My friend understood from the teachings and example of Christ Jesus that God, our heavenly Father, knows each one of us as His loved, cared for, and worthy child. At the heart of Jesus’ remarkable healing ministry was the idea that the presence and power of God are here for everyone right now; He never abandons us. The love of this divine Parent lights our lives in the way that sunlight does: It shines on everyone. God’s love for us simply is. Accepting this helps us see beyond a sense of preference for some and not others and know all as God knows them.
My friend had never seen the story of Joseph in this light before, so she felt that her prayer for inspiration had been answered by this idea. And so it proved. It freed the boy, who had been especially close with his mother, to share his feeling that his dad seemed to love his brother more than him because the two of them had always been quite close. Now he realized his father just needed to get to know him better. His face shone for the remainder of the class. He sat up straighter, as if some great burden had lifted. After class, the teacher spoke with the boy’s father, who was deeply moved by what she shared. He quietly responded, “Thank you.”
The next Sunday, the boy walked into Sunday School hand-in-hand with his dad. He was effusive with joy. He spoke of all the things they had done together during the week. They went on to have a close relationship, and in the boy’s remaining two years in my friend’s class, he made no further mention of wishing he were no longer alive. Today he is a healthy, happy, and confident adult.
When we’re yearning to help someone feeling cut off from love, kind words can help and comfort; but they are even more powerful when they spring from an understanding of divine Love’s invariable care for every one of God’s children. The healing Christ reaches past pain, doubt, and fear even when they suggest that death holds an answer. Even in the midst of our struggles, God’s love can be felt. It leaves no one out.