This month I want to address the subject of loss and how to minister to those who have been through a difficult situation. Things like a broken marriage, the loss of a home, business or career, or even worse, the loss of a loved one.
Proverbs 31:8 says to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
There are many wounded and broken people in our lives who simply hide in our churches and are afraid to share how much they are truly hurting from life's disappointments.
Loss and brokenness are everywhere and yet they are subjects which, in my opinion, are not addressed enough in the church. We have a lot of teaching on how to be a success in life, as we should, but not very much teaching and ministry to those who have had devastating losses and shattered souls. There are many who have fought a good fight of faith but did not receive their promise. (Hebrews 11:39)
How do you minister to someone who has asked, prayed and believed for a miracle but for some reason they just didn't see the manifestation of their prayers? Maybe they were speaking to their mountain of difficulty, but this time the mountain just didn't move.
What do you say to the precious saints who really love God but are hurting and confused over their loss? I remember one pastor friend said to me, There is a faith to move mountains and there is a faith to stand when the mountain doesn't move!
After losing our son to cancer six and a half years ago, the pain and confusion was almost more than we could bear at times. As we journeyed through that raw, difficult season, we became more sensitive to those who are suffering, and began learning what helps the hurting and what does not.
One of the main things which helped us (and still does) were friends who simply loved us and reached out with compassion and understanding ~ the "safe friends" as we called them, who were not trying to fix everything and explain the "why" with their deep doctrine, as if that would take away the pain. The people who cared enough to simply bear our burden and who were brave enough to just sit with us and let us cry when we needed to. These were the ones God used the most in walking us through this dark time. Even if they didn't have the right words for the moment, some simply wept with us.
...weep with those who weep.
Some friends understandably were not sure if they should come by our house after hearing of our loss because they didn't want to disturb us in this tender moment. But Jill reminded them how much we needed "Jesus with Skin on!" That's who the "Body of Christ" is: Jesus with skin on, and He came to heal the broken hearted and comfort those who mourn.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
A year & a half after Beau passed, some dear pastor friends lost their son in a tragic farm accident. We quickly called them to see what we could do to help, and offered to speak at their Sunday morning service so they could focus on just catching their next breath.
While driving to the church that Sunday morning and praying earnestly for the right message and words to comfort them, I heard the Lord say something I didn't expect:
Tell the people to do the lovin' and I'll do the fixin'.
It hit me like a lightening bolt. But after mediating on that for a few moments, I quickly had the whole message prepared in my heart.
As God's people, we always want to fix those who are hurting and fix them quickly. Too often we are overly zealous to whip out our Bibles and try to help them with scriptures, but more often than not they just aren't ready for the lessons. They are hurting and they need lovin'!
Theodore Roosevelt said,
People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
The issue is this: Learning to be sensitive to people in their pain. We've learned in our journey God is the best fixer, counselor and helper anyone can have, and most of the time all WE need to do is the lovin' and listening. Especially when someone is raw and tender from a tragic loss, they must be allowed to express their pain and cry it out. And that's OK!
If you read about Job's painful experience, you will see how his friends came quickly to comfort and console him. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (Job 2:13) (This sitting with mourners for seven days became the Jewish tradition known as, "Sitting Shiva.")
Job's friends started off right, but unfortunately after seven days they began to analyze Job's problems and tried to counsel and FIX him. Interestingly, in the end their words greatly angered God. (Job 42:7)
I heard one person say simply to Show up and Shut up. Although that is a little harsh, it may be better than saying some of the things often said in these settings.
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
In everything Jesus did in ministry, He was moved with compassion. He came to heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is the God of all comfort and the Father of mercies.
We need to be patient with hurting people and give them grace. It takes a lot of time to bounce back from some of life's harsh blows. Some people are never the same following a tragic loss. Of course we know God loves us, and yes we know Heaven is awesome and our loved ones are there -- we don't forget those things. But when you lose something or someone dear to you, you find a part of you has been ripped out, and it takes time adjusting to that "new normal," living without them on this side.
Can we learn to walk in love and compassion like Jesus did and be careful not to judge when people have difficulty, and their "mending" takes longer than we expected? Let's do the lovin' and let God do the fixin'.
P.S. Our son Beau would have turned 30 this month. We remember him tenderly with much love and affection, and want to thank all of you who have loved us and been patient with us as we continue walking through this difficult journey!
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