Hang with me. This is long, but there is a great lesson at the end of this post that can help you talk to someone who is suffering.
There seems to be so much suffering around me right now. Since January 1st of this year it seems as if someone I've known has passed away each week. Sometimes 2-3 people in a week. I've heard of cancer diagnoses as if its epidemic in our county. I often wonder if its really more rampant or am I just getting older and am more aware of death and know more people in the older generation? Part of me hopes that this increase of tragedy around me is God's way of ushering in the Tribulation. Lord Jesus I am ready to go home!
Right now I am reading through Job in the Bible. For those of you who many not be familiar with the story I will give you a very abbreviated, laymen's version: Job was a righteous man; God even called him "blameless." God allowed Satan to "test" Job through a series of horrendous, mind-altering calamities. Job lost his sons, his fortune and his health. The book of Job is a series of conversations between Job and the 3 friends who come to him to provide comfort and advice. The comfort that they try to offer becomes ridicule and condemnation.
The three friends, with their self-righteous attitudes, tear Job down as they berate him with their false philosophy that God punishes the wicked man and rewards the righteous man. Surely Job is lying about his sins since God's wrath is upon him. Their words of "encouragement" are bitter, mocking and only add insult to injury.
Job questions God many times. He is angry with God but Job never curses God. He remains faithful in his trust that God's hand is still upon him, even though it is unseen. Oh, how many times have I felt that way! I couldn't begin to count the times that I cried out to God asking why he had forsaken our family.
(everyone really needs to read the book of Job. Seriously. Go and do it now!)
How many times have you been to a hospital room to visit a dying relative? Do you have a friend that has cancer? What about your best friend's husband who has been laid off of work and they are barely making ends meet? I'd like to offer you a suggestion as you try to being a friend to them during this time.
Iva May says "People who have not suffered struggle to enter into the sufferings of others." Do you get that? It's the very definition of empathy. Sympathy is a totally different thing. Empathy means that you have been there. Empathy means that you are actually able to share in a persons suffering through mutual experiences.
To be clear, just because you haven't experienced the pain doesn't mean that you can't be a comforter during your friends time of mourning. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that at all. But what I am suggesting is that you guard your words carefully. Beware placated comments such as "They are in a better place," "At least they aren't suffering any more," or "God just had a different plan for her." While all of these things are true, they can come across as condemnation or trite to the one suffering.
Unless you speak from your shared experience, you need to remember that only God can comfort the soul of the hurting. Go. Sit with your friend. Hold the hand of your best friend. But guard your words. I can tell you from experience that your silent presence will make the most profound impact. Because to the suffering, there are really no words that can make anything better for them. Only Christ can provide the peace for which their soul so desperately yearns.
As Erik and I continue to pray about the Go Lucy Go Foundation I have been brought to my knees every morning as I read through Job. Here are two points from my Chronological Bible Study (Iva May):
- "Identification with, acts of service, and kindness bring greater consolation than words spoken."
- "Those who've suffered either become bitter toward others and God, or they become softer, kinder people who enter into the sufferings of others. "
Through this reading I feel as if my spirit has been renewed and my energy for the Foundation has been revived. I would like to ask for your prayers this week as we are exploring some exciting opportunities related to the Foundation. I want to be completely in God's will and not in my own. The great deceiver is working on my heart but I know that God will reveal His plan in His time.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. " 2 Corinthians 1:3-5