COLUMN: When love hurts

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Everyone heard the wail of a 4-year-old in the emergency room: “Mommy, Mommy, don’t let them hurt me.” He was crying, Mommy was crying and some of us were crying as we packed a badly deformed forearm in ice and started an IV for pain medications. All this was the result of a new Christmas trampoline!

I can only imagine what this little acrobat was thinking. “Why are these people hurting me and Mommy is just standing there watching. She must not love me as she is not protecting me.”

I’ve often wondered if that’s how God sees me when I’m going through a painful situation that’s for my ultimate good. Or when I watch someone I love go through hurt. “God, why are you letting this happen? Don’t you love me? Why don’t you make it stop?”

Face it, love hurts sometimes.

C.S.Lewis, who married late in life only to watch his beloved wife die of cancer, put it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Well, sir: consider us definitely roused!

This winter, through my chaplain training, I witnessed spouses and families show immense love when it hurt. It seemed every week the medical team and family were withdrawing life support and opting for comfort care for their loved ones when everything we tried wasn’t helping any more. Through the tears and heartache they witnessed the suffering and futility of the interventions proposed “that might help.” They showed their greatest love by letting go.

One of my very best friend’s mom died of COVID. He was clear across the country when she became ill and I was the surrogate child for her in his absence. She quickly ended up in the ICU and my friend couldn’t make it due to the weather. Mom had complications during an intervention and she died the next day. I was privileged to be with her when she passed away, but her son was angry at the hospital. At the time, I felt I was on the receiving end of his anger and I was hurt.

“Bless those who curse you … give to those who ask of you...Be merciful [with others] just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:28, 30, 36). I felt I had to try, this is someone I love.

We recently had a soon-to-be mother die tragically. When she arrived at the emergency room, her unborn baby was being kept alive through Mom’s CPR. The very little tyke was delivered emergently right there and found to be only 6 months into the pregnancy. He was alive although critical. I witnessed the love of Dad and Grandmother as they had to say goodbye to his wife and the mother of this child and to relinquish this tiny baby to complete strangers who took him to St Mary’s. A few days later the ultimate act of love was shown when Dad and Grandmother gently removed him from futile life support and gently rocked him to Heaven.

True love requires sacrifice. First Corinthians 13:4-7 says “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast and it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Well, these families sacrificed, they didn’t necessarily get their own way and they certainly endured all things. In an article by Sharon Jaynes, I read that “because God loves us, He desires our conformity more than our comfort … Allowing troubles, trial and pain is one way our loving God makes that so.”

No one likes a sharp needle but if it brings healing or prevents greater suffering, it is what we need. Our faith in Christ doesn’t guarantee an easy life but a perfect eternity.

The truth is, true love does hurt. It hurts because when we really love someone, we choose to surrender the things we thought we needed to fight for. We can look at Christ’s example of sacrifice out of love and do our best to follow His lead. It is not easy, but it is love. And eternity with Christ is worth it.

May Christ, whose resurrection is extended to us as the solution to all hurt, bless you and yours abundantly.

Mary Vader is number seven of 11 children raised on a Gunnison ranch. She is a pediatrician and active at St. Mary Parish. She is part of a surgical team that has done medical missions all over the world for 26 years.

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