Archive for the ‘love and other drugs’ Tag

Carrying Another’s Burden

I was working with one of my Basic Composition students whom I’ll call Tom.  The rest of the class had left, and we were plugging through how to organize an expository essay when he began to elaborate on his health issues.

I listened as he told me about the progressive brain disease where his brain is continuing to shrink, and his life expectancy is dwindling to maybe 15 more years.  Tom is 34.

When faced with the suffering or problems of others, our first instinct is to fix them.  While it might be motivated by compassion, our unwillingness to watch others suffer might also be linked to our own unwillingness to suffer with them. It is hard for us to love someone who is hurting (physically or emotionally) because that puts us in pain, too.  So we work like crazy to make them better.

Our “help” can take the form of nagging (my personal specialty) or unwanted or unasked for advice (another talent of mine).  We are unable to rest with the hurting person and just listen, providing the comfort of presence that reminds them that they’re not alone.

In the movie “Love and Other Drugs,” the character Jamie (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is a pharmaceutical rep who inadvertently falls in love with an artist named Maggie (Anne Hathaway) who has early onset  Parkinson’s disease.  Once he realizes the implications of this disease for their relationship, he is desperate to find a cure.  He flies Maggie to see a number of specialists, and in one part of the story where they have flown in to see a specialist only to find out their appointment was rescheduled, he loses it with the receptionist and creates a scene.

You see, Jamie could only love Maggie if there was hope for a cure, at least at this point in the movie.  It hurt too much to endure her pain with her.

In Galatians 6:2, we’re told to “Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law” (The Message).  We’re not told to fix them or change them, but to share in their heartache and their misfortunes.  Sooner or later, we will need someone to share our problems, too.

The good news in this bleak picture is twofold.  First, it’s not up to us to fix everyone’s problems or illnesses.  It is helpful to realize that we are limited, that God is not limited, and that He’s keeping an eye on everything so there’s no need to worry.  Next, we have a Triune God who loves us in the midst of our mess and our brokenness and who isn’t afraid to sit with us in it.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are not put off by our problems.  If anything, they are willing to sit with us because they know it will all turn out OK.   They have chosen to make it that way.

So as I listened to my student Tom tell me his questions of “why me?” and his concerns for the future, I managed to keep quiet.  I laid my well-intentioned advice to the side, and I sat with him while he bore his health burden.  I’d like to think my attention, my reflective listening (I did my best), and my presence offered comfort and reassurance.  I’d like to think that Jesus was sitting with us, in the midst of Tom’s mess, reminding us both that we’re never forsaken, never left alone.

~Nan Kuhlman

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