Do you remember playing dodge ball? It’s when the kids on the outside of the circle try to hit the kids inside the circle with a large rubber ball. The game begins with lots of laughter and squeals until you hear that earth shaking “BAM!” That is the sound of a rubber ball hitting a back, leg or other body part. There is a barely audible gasp as every kids in the game flinches from the deafening sound. But this is followed by a collective sigh as though the whole group says “Whew, I’m glad that wasn’t me.” In the brief time before the frenzy of the game resumes each person in their own way tries to reason “Why them? Why not me?” In the face of another person’s hardship it’s easy to get stuck. We feel bad that they were hit with the ball but we certainly are glad it wasn’t us.
Hopefully no one is too traumatized by a dodge ball game but what about when hardships are not a game? Is it hard to know how to react? The guy in the desk next to you was laid off, your neighbor received poor test results, your friend lost their husband and a family member was in a terrible car accident. Upon hearing of a hardship we often feel that initial gasp as though you feel the pain the other person is feeling but too quickly we find ourselves relieved it wasn’t us. If you’re like me, this is quickly followed by guilt.
When you think “why them and not me?” you’re tasting survivor guilt. For me it sounds like “Why not me? Why do I have two great kids, an adorable husband, a healthy body and a job I find fulfilling?” I know I’ve had my seasons of trials, but in my guilt they seem irrelevant.
What makes things worse is that my survivor guilt can often make me want to pull away from the person who is struggling. Why would they want to hear about my puny difficulties or my giant blessings as they struggle? I find myself consciously having to remind myself that not only do they need me, I still need them. I need them because they are my friends, my family and my coworkers that I have come to depend on. Their hardship has not erased my need to be connected to them. And besides, Jesus was right. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Act 20:35. Why would I let my guilt rob me of the blessing of giving them support?
So when those around you struggle, push aside the guilt over your blessings and your puny difficulties that make you doubt your ability to serve. When people struggle, they still need someone to take walks around the neighborhood, someone to watch their favorite ball game and someone to laugh at that silly thing they heard. And here’s the truth- so do you. Don’t let the hardship in their life rob you of a friendship you’ve come to value.