More Than a Bucket of Ice

The Ice Bucket Challenge* is sweeping across social media. My husband gave me the Ice-Industrial-Garbage-Container Challenge! He used my daughter’s wheelchair crane to dump 55 gallons of ice water on me to show our support and solidarity with those suffering from ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge goes beyond #Hashtag #Support. It’s a movement of solidarity involving all ages and ethnicities. It’s giving individuals battling ALS and their families new energy and a feeling of the world’s empathy instead of apathy. If you want to know the incredible backstory of the Ice Bucket Challenge, watch this video. It’s a beautiful story of a man suffering from a horrible disease and how his friends and family have come along side him in his journey.

For years those suffering from ALS have suffered in near silence. Like many of you, I really only knew the disease by the moniker “Lou Gehrig’s disease” until about a year ago. It’s a horrible—horrible—disease for the individuals battling ALS and for their loved ones. While I cannot pretend to know the extent of their pain, I still feel connected to them in some ways, because I do know what it’s like to suffer and to suffer in silence.

Both of my daughters were born with separate and extremely rare conditions (Four-Limb Amniotic Band Syndrome and Congenital CMV), and as a result they will forever be closely monitored by medical professionals and face tremendous difficulties completing daily tasks. At the beginning, during the darker days of sorrow and grieving for my babies, I remember vividly how isolated and alone I often felt. After my second daughter was born, after everyone went home and the dust settled, I found myself walking around in a daze. I desperately wanted someone—anyone—around me to come up and say, “Hey, I’m so sorry this has happened. It really stinks. How are you?” This may sound a bit odd, but honestly I needed the question more than I needed to talk to someone. I didn’t need to pour out my soul; I had plenty of family around to help process and grieve. More than anything, what I needed was a genuine acknowledgement that something horrible had happened to me and to my babies. I needed to be reminded that the people around me were aware of it, validating my grief, and giving me time to process it.

To put it bluntly, I had a profound need for solidarity from those around me.

This need for solidarity—especially during suffering—is foundational to our makeup as human beings. We were made to exist in community with each other. As our Creator, God knows this and reminds His church to be diligently aware of this need. Romans 12 describes those who are in Christ as one body. Truly being a part of this body means weeping with those who are in pain and standing with them.

The reason why I love the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is that in the midst of the current global tragedies, it provides us with a brief moment to stop and recognize those who are silently suffering from a debilitating disease. The Ice Bucket Challenge began with a friend declaring to a friend, “We acknowledge you. You are important. Your suffering matters to us. We’re going to try to help in our own small way.”

My prayer is that churches pay attention to this movement of solidarity and commit to stand in unity with those in their congregation and community who are suffering. I’ve seen within my own extended family the heartbreaking results of what happens when the church turns a blind-eye to a family’s suffering. I understand that in many cases it’s not from a lack of concern, but from a lack of words. We rarely know what to say to others who are suffering in ways we cannot understand. But more times than not, those of us who are suffering don’t really need words—we just want someone there. Stand with us. Let us know you care that we are hurting. We may or may not ask for anything, but knowing you’re there makes all the difference.

Author’s Notes:  *Often we Christians are better known for what we’re against than what we’re for. Some have asked if a Christian can do the Ice Bucket Challenge. There are valid concerns. Over the last few days, well-informed Christians have looked into how to keep ALS donations from supporting embryonic stem cell research. Life News has offered its own suggestion for places to donate for ALS awareness and support.