Watching changes nothing

It is a blunt title, and yet… it’s true.

‘Being there’ for someone else changes nothing

Nil. Zero. Nought.

watching changes nothing #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching #prayer

That, my friends, is the reality.

As Watchers, we are not needed. We cannot actually do anything. Life goes on and we Watch, and nothing changes.

If there was a list entitled ‘how to change the world’, Watching wouldn’t be on there.

Try as we might, we cannot fix the situation.

We can’t heal our Loved Ones. We can’t be their knight in shining armour and swoop down onto the battle field and sweep them off their feet and carry them to safety.

It’s just not possible.

If wishes were horses beggars would ride.

But they’re not, so instead we crawl through the mud and swear when we tumble into a pit and lose sight of our Loved One.

Illness and circumstance are some of Life’s non-negotiables.

We are not God. Watching changes nothing, except perhaps ourselves.

1. We cannot carry their burdens

Not only can we not save them, but we cannot even bear their burdens beside them.

I touched on this in the first post, and it is still true. We can help them, we can aid them, we can take care of all their physical needs – but in the end they alone must bear their illness.

They must go down into valley of darkness in their own strength, not ours.

As Sam tells Frodo in Tolkien’s The Return of the King:

“I can’t carry it for you.”

2. Watching doesn’t make their sufferings special

Thirdly, our presence does not sanctify their sufferings.

There’s a sort of unspoken belief at times that when people suffer they somehow do so for the people around them. That they become An Example and in doing so their sufferings become worthwhile.

John Green touches on this in The Fault in Our Stars, with Hazel and Gus’ sarcastic rejoinder:

“They are an Example to us all. Oh how we admire them!”

Yet individuals do not suffer ‘for the (unknown) greater good’ in this sense, and it is risky to think so.

As if our presence as Watchers makes something horrific acceptable and provides their miseries with purpose!

If only that was all it took to redeem suffering.
Let us not insult our Loved Ones.

Their suffering is not made acceptable by our presence.

To believe so is to belittle what they go through. It is also dangerous because it belittles the misery of those who suffer alone.

Must the ‘purpose’ of suffering be so obvious as to simply be the edification of the people who watch?

3. Watching doesn’t make their suffering important

Watchers are not needed to make suffering valid.

God alone makes suffering valid, and He does so in each and every case, because He uses every life for His glory.

Every tear has a part in His eternal plan.

If I were to suffer utterly alone, in the deepest depths of the earth, if not one living purpose heard my cries, there would still be a purpose to it. After all, what humans do not see, spiritual powers do. It is enough if angels weep and demons shudder (Ephesians 3:10).

For more on this see When God Weeps, by Joni Earekson Tada.

BUT: Our helplessness is a relief

The truth that Watching changes nothing is a hard one.

It is a blow to our pride. It is yet another demand for us to admit our helplessness. We cannot become proud of Watching while we remember it.

We are not Saviours; we need a Saviour.

This truth is also a relief.

It ought to remove some of our burden.

It is not up to us to fix the life of our Loved Ones. When we fail, when we are not there when we should be, when our Loved One has to go through something alone, when we run away, when we give up, when we don’t know the answers – that is okay.

It’s not up to us.

That task is in the hands of One who is much more capable than we will ever be. While we Watch, He Does – and that is how it should be.

If you feel this is a bit one-sided, the sequel to this post is “Watching changes everything”.


//Do you find it comforting or distressing to realise that Watching changes nothing? Are you satisfied to keep Watching in light of that? Why/Why not?

Join the conversation! Comment below.


PS: Enjoyed the post above? Get the next one delivered straight to you! Sign up for email notifications  

I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest & Twitter! Meet me there for more interesting reads, resources and community.

Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.