26 July 2007

Brothers, sisters — don't drop the ball

by Dan Phillips

Back at the turn of the year I posted Four faces: gaining perspective for the new year. Among the gracious responses was a particularly humbling email from a sister in the Lord who opted to write me rather than go through the Blogger gauntlet and make a comment.

These emails remind us of the thousands who see our posts and do not comment, but may be touched in one way or another by what we share. It's humbling and sobering, especially when one looks at a map of our visitors and see how international our audience is.

This email was particularly humbling. The sister, who I intend to keep quite anonymous, shared that she had recently lost a child, very sadly. She wanted to share that the post had been encouraging to her.

A father of four, my heart went out to her. I don't know anything that hits harder or more bitterly than a tragedy befalling one of our children. The thought of something happening to one of ours was what I called The Unthinkable Thought, in that my soul simply recoils at the notion. But here was a sister whose The Unthinkable Thought had become a harsh, uninvited, and unwelcome visitor.

So I corresponded with her a bit, tried to share what I had to give. She said her church was being wonderful, she knew folks were praying for them, but it was nowhere they'd ever wanted to be.

I thought of her off and on through the months, and prayed for her and her family. I formed the notion of writing her, to check on her.

With a few notable exceptions, I'm a horrendously bad correspondent, with far more guilt than accomplishments in that arena. But here's what was moving me: knowledge of folks' tendency to drop the ball when it most matters.

Here's what I mean. When a death, or other tragedy, strikes, one's emotions are all a-jangle. There are many quick decisions and adjustments. That's when an even-half-alive church is there, with meals and notes and comfort and encouragement, and hugs and prayers and tears.

But a tragedy isn't always something you can just shake off. You don't tell someone who's just lost a loved one, "Walk it off, get back in the game." As the sage says,
Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda,
Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.
(Proverbs 25:20 NAS)
Rather emphatically we are told not to lecture nor scold, but to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15b). It should be the aim in a local body that, "if one member suffers, all suffer together" (1 Corinthians 12:25a). Righteous Job wept for the person whose day was hard (Job 30:25), as did David (Psalm 35:13-14). None of these verses gives a particular time frame.

And this is what was in the back of my mind. Often, many folks show up when the need is critical. But — and let's be blunt and specific — the dead person doesn't come back in a month, three months, a year. The pain and the loss stay. The mourner (whether of death or another catastrophe) explores a dark landscape that shifts with each holiday, each birthday, each event that would (should!) have been shared with the loved one.

And unfortunately, he or she can be forgotten by his church or friends, who assume that he has moved on. As they have done.

And so I was sad but unsurprised when my Christian sister wrote back,
I guess you could say we are doing well. We are all learning that grief is a like a journey, only you don’t know where you are going to end up each day.

...I am beginning to realize that I’m starting to feel a little resentment (that word may be a little too strong) toward the people in our church and even in our own families. Our church family was so THERE for us [when it happened] and now, for the most part, they have just moved on and it seems they think we should too. I really don’t think people know how to handle these bad situations. Our pastor has not said anything to me since [the time of loss] about [my child]. I know that most people just don’t know what to say, and frankly, I sometimes don’t really know what I expect them to say. I’m not expecting condolences every time, but some acknowledgement would be nice. The thing is, I know I was like this before. I hesitate to mention it to the pastor he’ll want me to start up a grief recovery group or some such thing.
"Ouch," no?

Her words make me want to re-examine my own ministry in that area. I think she expresses herself absolutely fairly and in a measured way... and I think we're fools if we don't learn from her candid perspective.

So here are my three "takeaways" to share:
  1. Life isn't like a sitcom or a TV drama. Catastrophes don't necessarily get "fixed" in 30 or 60 minutes. It's a long, long haul.
  2. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time" (Proverbs 17:17 CSB).
  3. Just being there and showing care is a lot. No need to try to be "deep." Job's friends served him best when they wept with him, and sat silent with him for seven days (Job 2:12-13). When they opened their mouths, they started getting into trouble.

To develop that last point just a bit: when my first pastor lost his dad, he said that the person who did him the most good was a man who simply walked up, put his arm around his shoulders, and stood with him for a bit. Whether it's "I'm thinking of you and praying for you," or asking, "How are you doing?", we needn't rewrite Calvin's Institutes. Remember, Paul said "weep with those who weep," not "give an extended discourse to those who weep."

Ask how they're doing, and expect to hear an answer that's not fun. Grief gnaws. A well-meaning friend suggested to my correspondent that dealing with death is like a bad cut that heals, but eventually goes away, leaving a painless scar. She shared that with her children later.
My ...daughter immediately said, “No, it’s like your hand is cut off. It may heal but you still don’t have your hand.” ...Actually, I think she hit the nail right on the head. How can you really “recover” from losing a [child]?
There will be a time to share encouraging words about God's love, goodness, sovereignty. Nobody reasonably expects you to be able to explain everything. But don't assume that it's out of place simply to affirm the basics: God's love, the message of Calvary, our eternal hope. I recall a dark time decades ago, when one good friend felt I was too "deep" (or whatever) to be told something so basic... but that's exactly what I needed to hear. Grief can jar one's grip on the fundamentals; a loving affirmation can be very heartening.

But affirming the eternal fundamentals is very different from trying to explain God's providence.

First, I think we do best to show God's love and goodness. Show now, talk later. Show later, too.

So pastors, elders, deacons; brothers, sisters, let us remember. Let's not drop the ball.

Dan Phillips's signature


52 comments:

StormRider said...

Wow, Dan. Thanks for that sobering and salutary comment on dealing with these deep problems. I have known what it is to be hurt by insensitive comments and unhelpful "help" that is so superficial, or even be dropped by some who seem to fear that distress may be contagious. And I also wince in shame at the thought that I have certainly been guilty of doing that myself.

But I am also deeply thankful for those who have put an arm round me in silent support during a very tough period of my life. Often it has been because they have been there themselves, or at least have a deep sensitivity to those who suffer.

No, we don't "get over it and move on" - we hopefully, by God's grace, can move on - but like the daughter of your correspondent, it may be without a hand. Or again, perhaps like Jacob limping, but having met with God in those struggles. There are lessons to be learned in the darkness, but from God Himself and not from those who lecture us: He knows how the teach the lessons tenderly - but His timescale is not always ours. Blessed are those who have friends who are there with an arm, a meal, or even to say "I don't know what to say..." - who sustain us graciously until the Lord helps us to cope without the hand that we know will not grow back.

Your post has made me thankful (for godly support) and thoughtful - about my own continuing inadequacies.

donsands said...

These words are so needed. Thanks.

Jim Crigler said...

Thanks.

DJP said...

Stormrider—what an excellent comment to start the thread. Thank you for all of that.

...or even be dropped by some who seem to fear that distress may be contagious

This reminds me of a passage in C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. (Man, now there's some rough reading!) Lewis said that other married people seemed to avoid him, as if his grief and his situation (losing a wife to cancer) might be contagious.

And I also wince in shame at the thought that I have certainly been guilty of doing that myself

Ditto that.

Ellen said...

This is so needed...just a note (not having to do with losing a child, bur rather losing s spouse.

I have zero friends from when I was married that still stay in contact with me - I've called and left messages, but my married friends have drifted.

"Stages of life", I guess, but the only friends that stuck with me were the single women in my circle.

Jon Nunley said...

Elizabeth Prentiss comes to my mind... her book of poems and songs that many felt included too many dark and grievous expressions. She lost several of her children and STILL, through her writing, is a great comfort to many. Of all the people to learn from... not only in how to encourage a brother or sister who has lost a child, but she is someone who truly knows such grief... and yet had such hope.
The example of cutting off ones hand was excellent.

(Lisa)

DJP said...

The lost hand analogy does resonate, doesn't it?

My father died 1/1/93. It took a while to be able to describe it, but I immediately felt as if something essential were missing from the universe... as if you walk around, vaguely aware that something that should be there is gone, and then you realize it's the sun.

Debbie said...

I have not read this blog in so long and, to be honest, I wasn't going to read it today. I am brought to tears reading it. I have suffered chronic migraines for 7 years (headache nearly every day) and back pain from a car accident for 2 years.

I have received much unsolicited advice (most of it not making sense)over the years and have alienated friends by not taking it. I really don't know what to do with the advice.I know that it was intended to be helpful, but in the long run it is not. Advice is superficial and distances people rather than bringing them together. It is easy to give advice; it requires more from people to put themselves on the line and show true compassion by just putting an arm around me and asking what is going on in the midst of my pain.

Anyway, I know my friends and church family have been praying for me for years and, again, I appreciate that. However, most of the prayers have been that the pain end. I have recently learned that there are important spiritual lessons for me to learn in the midst of the pain. I wish my fellow Christians would pray that I learn those lessons instead of praying for relief. I need to depend on God; I need to relinquish my dependence on myself; I need to be humble. Pain does all of that for me. Pain is not a bad thing to be prayed away. Pain is a gift because it has forced me to my knees. And I desperately don't want to waste it.

Over the years, my church family has focused on the Problem as in "how is your head, or how is your back". Again, these questions are intended to be kind and they are kind, but the kindness misses the mark. Theses questions fail to speak to my heart and soul. To quote David Powlison in "Suffering and the Sovereignity of God", "A half-kindness [one that misses the true issue] becomes a complete unkindness."

As for me, I deeply long for someone to put an arm around me and ask me how I am doing. I would love for someone to say "I am here for you." No advice, no focus on the Problem, but rather questions about my struggles, the lessons I am learning, and where I need encouragement.

I don't expect the pain to subside this side of heaven and that is not a defeatist attiude. I believe this is my thorn. I am without my hand and I am reminded of that daily. But I praise God that He counted my worthy to suffer for Him.

DJP said...

Thanks for that, Debbie. If I may, I'd like to tag-team off of your comment to address a misimpression I can see readers getting.

I can picture someone reading your comment and thinking, "Oh, crud — that's exactly what I'd do. I'd ask how her head is. I'd pray for her headaches to go away... and she's saying that's the wrong thing to say and it makes it worse. It really is better if I don't say anything, because I'll probably just say the wrong thing. I'd better leave it to the pro's."

I think we're all afraid of saying the wrong thing, and making it worse. We're all afraid of those scenes we've seen in a hundred movies, where A tells B sympathetically, "I know how you feel," and B takes this as an opportunity to go nuclear and shred her well-meaning friend to bits.

And so what we take from that is, "Better to say nothing than say the wrong thing."

(I'm sure that's not what you're meaning to communicate.)

First, I think we who try to give comfort should brace ourselves that sufferers may take out their frustration with God on us, like Job did. They can't grab God and vent, and we're the closest visible thing. We may need to be sturdy buffers.

Second, though, we who suffer should be prepared to extend grace to our comforters. They're really not God. Give the benefit of the doubt. See past the ill-chosen words, to the desire to help, and express gratitude for it.

Third, we who feel that others could give better comfort should be proactive in doing what we think they should do. That's poorly-put. What I'm saying is, DO what you think should be done. FIND others who need encouragement, and give it. DO unto others, rather than — and I say this gently; it's a pill I've had to take myself, often — giving all your energy to lamenting their failure to do unto you.

Rhology said...

Thanks for that, DJP and Debbie.
I have a friend from church who's a little younger than I am, and his wife had a miscarriage about a week before my wife did. This was over 18 months ago; I just called him to ask him how he's doing on that count and we'll talk at length this weekend. We've both had healthy babies since, but the grief remains. Thanks for the reminder.

steve said...

Thanks, Dan and commenters--some excellent life lessons here for both sufferers and those who attempt to extend comfort.

jmark said...

While supporting everything that Dan and others have said, can I add a balancing concern?

Yes - we need to be there for longer than two weeks
Yes - we need to sometimes just be there.
Yes to all of that.

But sometimes there is a tendency for Christians to build up a resentment because they are not being visited/spoken to.

That is wrong. A wrong reaction to the wrong others have done. But wrong nevertheless.

This then poisons fellowship. You start to think that people are being deliberately uncaring, when in fact theyy are very busy themselves (too busy perhaps).

The reason that it is so deadly is that it looks at ourselves with an "I deserve this" mentality - as in "They should be doing more for me". I dont think Christians are allowed to have that. I dont see that in scripture.

I know of someone who complained of the long lonely evenings since her husband died, who complained that no one from the church visited her frequently. Yet she had a car, time, and health and could have been out visiting others instead of getting embroiled in a pity-party.

Nothing was stopping her from going out, instead she chose to sit in, expecting people to call, and when they didnt she resented the fact.

I'd echo wholeheartedly Dan's call to "Dont drop the ball" but I'd also say as lovingly as I can to those enduring grief, "Watch out for resentment when other imperfect humans fail".

jmark said...

I see Dan has more or less said what I have just been aiming at in his last comment - missed that!

donsands said...

What would I do, if one of my grandsons died. Matthew, who is four, is so precious to me. If he was to die, I feel I would want to die as well.
And that's just a grand parent, how would my daughter ever cope.

I have a dear sister in Christ who lost her 4 year old son.
There are no words here to discribe this whole ordeal really.
Her son was accidently strangled on his sliding board in the back yard.
This was 12 years ago or so.
Linda, Daniel's Mom is serving our Lord with Youth for Christ.

I support her. And I try and mention Daniel sometimes, but rarely.
It's difficult to know really.

I appreciate this post Dan, it helps.
I pray the Lord will use the wisdom here in my life and heart, so that I can be a better Christian to others like Linda.

centuri0n said...

Note to self: Phillips has gone soft.

Notify Global Calvinist Cabal that we have lost another one and we need a cleaner.

DJP said...

"Gone"?

Terry Rayburn said...

Both the encouragement to not drop the ball, and the encouragement not to be embittered by others who drop the ball assume a level of selflessness.

Yet self-centeredness is a given if we're not filled with the Spirit.

So a third encouragment, given as random facets of the Diamond of "fellowshiping with Christ":

We need to spend time with Him, learn of Him, bask in His love and grace, know His heart, seek His face, read His Word (not just for knowledge or a check-off list, but for Him), not be anxious for anything but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make our requests known to Him, give thanks, humble ourselves, recognize that we are dead to sin and alive to God through Him (as mysterious and glorious as that is), confess our sins and acknowledge His wonderful forgiveness of ALL our sins, die daily in surrender to Him, saying (and meaning) "Not my will but thine be done" (moment by moment), be being filled with the Spirit, walking by the Spirit.

Then we will be equipped to not just *affirm* the wise and touching counsel Dan has given here, but to *live* it.

LeeC said...

Thank you Dan,
I literally had just sent an email to a hurting brother then opened this website, I wish I had reversed the order.

Sometimes it's so hard, you just want to make their hurt go away, so you try and "Fix it" next thing you know I'm sounding like one of Jobs counselors...

And when I recognize that my tendency is to back off and as Dan said "Let the Pros do it" so I don't botch it.

Both actions are out of a sincere grief for my friends pain, but sometimes I just need to shut up and be there.

Juloyes said...

Beautifully said. Losing a child is indeed an "unthinkable thought" and your insights prove invaluable to a pastor's wife. So often it's hard to know what to say. I think admitting that you don't know what to say but that you care means more than the most eloquent theological treatise you can come up with.

I've also found it's not a good idea to quote Romans 8:28 in the midst of the suffering. Somehow, even though it's true, it's just not helpful.

M said...

Here is a counterpoint. What do you do when you feel like your joy minimizes their grief. Here is my example. I'll try to make it short.

We have some friends who had a premature baby who died. Took them over five years to get pregnant and have the child.

My wife and I struggled with carrying children to term (three miscarriages) but now have 4 healthy boys in just under 4.5 years. Our most recent was born about two months after Susannah died.

How do you share joy with someone who has had such a painful loss? I think C.S. Lewis missed the point....married couples might have felt that their marriage would exacerbate CS Lewis' grief. That's how I would have felt.

janelle said...

Wow, Dan. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks.

Daryl said...

Thanks Dan.

I'm heading to the funeral of a friend in about an hour so your timing couldn't be better.
I pray that I'll remember this in a month, year, decade from now while interacting with his family.

Bless you,

Daryl.

rebecca said...

I know of someone who complained of the long lonely evenings since her husband died, who complained that no one from the church visited her frequently. Yet she had a car, time, and health and could have been out visiting others instead of getting embroiled in a pity-party.

I think the solution given here—that the widow should get out and visit others—is more difficult than you can imagine unless you've experience what she's experienced. First of all, when periods of grief wash over, it can become impossible to take the initiative in things like that. You just have no "get up and go." You need people to invite you to things, and even more than that (and this is where it gets tricky), people to push you to do things.

Secondly, it can be really hard to go places alone when you have become so used to going out as a couple. And this difficulty doing things alone can last way longer than you'd ever anticipate beforehand. It's been 4 1/2 years for me, and it's still really hard sometimes. I am really, really thankful when people say, "Would you like to go with us and can we pick you up?" You have no idea how much this helps.

threegirldad said...

I regret to say that my wife and I had a similar experience after the death of our first daughter. And I am ashamed to say that I became bitter and resentful as a result, despite being raised by Godly parents. By God's grace I overcame it, but it took 10 years. Shame on me for wasting those years in that way! By this post, I publicly acknowledge that I allowed myself to descend into an inexcusable "pity party" (NB: follow-up comments from Dan and jmark).

As C.S. Lewis observed, we had to cope with the "death" of friendships as well, though we tried to keep those relationships intact. How I wish that it could have been otherwise!

The inexorable "dying" of the memory of her (even among family members) has been even more painful in a sense than was her physical death. 13 years later, almost no one mentions her anymore. Perhaps the mere mention of a loved one who has died is too painful for some to bear; I cannot speak for others. But I would certainly prefer that people who knew her at least acknowledge from time to time the life that God gave her on this earth. I rejoice whenever someone recalls a fond memory, remembers her endearing idiosyncrasies. So, when I began participating in online forums, I deliberately chose this nickname, in part, as a silent testimony of her life.

Happy 18th Birthday, Hannah (July 11)! Daddy loves you and misses you...

jbuck21 said...

With all the 'death of children' talk, I'm reminded of what Samuel Rutherford once told one of his congregants. The sweet lady had lost her daughter, and while comforting her with genuine comfort, he said, "Just so long was your lease of her from the Lord" - which I take to mean, the Lord had allowed this woman the joy of some days with her daughter, but the daughter was nonetheless the Lord's. (Pslm 139, etc.)

I find that the kindest thing that a person can say, sometimes, is the power of a really well applied passage of Scripture given in a soft and kind way.

Jon

HarryJ said...

Dan
Very good and heartfelt post--thank you.

Terry
Excellent thoughts brother

Frank
Dan didn't come off as going soft, but more pastoral. I appreciated his tone and sensitivity in this situation.

Why do you feel the need to be sarcastic all the time--especially on such a warm and meaningful post as this?

HJ

DJP said...

I appreciate your concern, Harry; but I count Frank a much-loved friend, and think the world of him. He's just funnin' me in his Frank-way. If he stopped razzing me, I'd worry.

donsands said...

threegirldad,

"I rejoice whenever someone recalls a fond memory, remembers her endearing idiosyncrasies."

Thanks for sharing your heart. It helps me.

Our Lord's grace and peace be with you. For the glory of His name. Amen.

Canada Family said...

I am a regular Pyro reader, but have not commented until now. My husband and I have also walked the painful road of watching one of our precious children (the 2nd of our 4) die. Even the strongest, most theologically sound believer is shaken to the core when something like this happens. You don't think about the death of one of your children when you repeat the vows, "till death do us part."

I appreciate Dan's thoughts here. I can't count the sincere attempts by others to comfort us that instead only brought more pain. My advice to anyone who is standing alongside a grieving person is to just simply be there. Some days I just needed to call a sister in Christ and say, "Today is terrible. I want to die and be with her. I can't take care of the rest of my family. Please pray for me." Just to know that even with my right and high view of God that I could reveal my own breaking heart to another (Abigail was born with a heart defect) was so healing for me. 9 years have now come and gone and I can honestly say that our faithful and gracious God has given me new joy and the opportunity to "comfort others with the comfort I've been given." Thanks again for the post.

centuri0n said...

Harry J:

I appreciate Dan for being the kind of man he is -- which includes a great sense of humor.

Thanks.

wordsmith said...

Geteilter Schmerz ist halber Schmerz - shared pain is pain halved. To echo Canada family, sometimes we think that we have to say something when we encounter a brother or sister in the midst of grief, when what they're really looking for is someone to come alongside them and share the burden - an excellent time to remember that there's a reason why we have two ears but only one mouth.

Sewing said...

I'll have to remember this post—AND all the comments—for future reference and guidance.

We all know Frank is a big softy, despite his tough, "mean Calvinist" exterior. He ain't foolin' anyone.

There was a young couple on the bus this morning, and the lady was crying. I mean, really crying—softly, not sobbing, but crying nonetheless—for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I have no idea what'd happened. As a stranger on a crowded bus, I couldn't really go up to offer consolation, all the more so because I didn't even know what was going on. I just prayed that God would guide her and protect and comfort her...that's all I could do.

Debbie said...

Hi, Dan and everyone. I want to make it clear that I appreciate my brothers and sisters asking how my head is or how my back is because I understand their intent. It would be worse for them to say nothing. Nor do I resent their not responding the way I want them to. That was not my point.

My point was to call to attention that the absence of pain or grief is not necessarily a good thing if I have failed to learn the lessons that pain, grief or sorrow bring with them. Job, though he was righteous, needed to learn who God was and the proper response to Him. He did this thru his sufferings. Job 42: 5 and 6 are 2 of my favorite verses: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."

Having said all this, I just want others to know how to best respond to those who suffer. Ask them what they have learned about God; ask them what their greatest struggle is; ask them how can I pray for you. And then listen. That is all I was attempting to say. And, by the way, this is how I deal with others who suffer.

joey said...

I liked this post...very good in a very Phillips kind of way

TrothKeepr said...

Mr. Philipps, thank you for your bull's-eye post.

As one who has had a chronic illness since early '81 (disabled by it since '90), I have found it difficult dealing with the polar indifference from folks at church. Never a phone call to say "Hi, I just wanted to call and see how you're doing." Never someone saying, "Just give a buzz if you need a hand with something." (Most of the time, I can handle my own groceries and driving, but perhaps 6-7x/year, I'm in such sorry shape, that I could use some help.) Never an invite to someone's house for dinner or lunch---or even for a brownbag picnic at the park!

When *I* have offered to help stressed out moms with their homeschooling (I am a former educator), there has been no response (perhaps they view me as a leper---even though what I have is as contagious as allergies).

The irony is that out of all the folks in my old Christian friends-group back in N.C. (I moved in '87), the only one who still keeps in touch is herself afflicted with what I have, but 10x worse (she and her husband lived in a chlordane-saturated house for 20 years).

As an antidote to the occasional onslaught of resentment and bitterness, I find this verse helps: "He looked for one to have pity on Him, but there was no man, neither found He any to comfort Him."

He understands.

TK

Phil Johnson said...

Yup. Superb post. It deserves to be reprinted in some church bulletins, if you ask me.

Thanks, Dan.

Doug E. said...

Extremely important words!!!

Thanks,

Doug

Kristine said...

Thank you. I identified easily with the woman you mentioned, and I suppose I could mention all the reasons why in this comment...

But after typing and then deleating my words a couple of times, I decided to simply say, "thanks".

With all the readers your blog has, I do hope this leads many to a different view of those who grieve, and how God could use us to weep with and provide comfort to those whose spirits are heavy, and whose hearts are broken.

DJP said...

I appreciate everyone's kindness, and praise God for His grace.

But, boy, as to the content of the comments....

BEST. META. EVER!

Jay said...

A deeply touching post, followed by more deeply touching comments.

It seems so easy to say to someone that they should just let "Jesus take that pain away", although Paul taught that God sometimes will allow grief and suffering to persist in a Christian's life-Paul lived with his thorn in the flesh to the end.

A couple of years ago in our church there was a man dying of cancer. The church repeatedly lifted the man and his family in prayer, helped raise money to offset the medical expenses, provided food after his death, etc. Yet, after the funeral I've never heard the widow's or children's names mentioned again. This post really struck home with the truth of how we Christians sometimes don't seem to be in for the long haul...with myself being first in line...convicted and guilty.

Thanks for this post and the comments.

Tim Brown said...

Here's my experience with stuff like this.

My dad died this past November 11th. On January 6th, my mom had fallen and we took her to the emergency room. My former pastor happened to show up. He sat next to me with his "permagrin" face on and asked how I was doing. I told him "It's been a tough year".

He said "come on...the year is only six days old". Of course, I meant "The past twelve months". I then told him this and told him what happened. Strong disappointments with my son, the loss of our dog and of course dad's passing.

his response?

"Hey, it'll get better"

The "sympathy commitee" finally sent us a sympathy card for Dad's passing...after I mentioned to one of the committee members that we didn't get one.

Cindy said...

As I have been reading so many of these comments I have to ask myself which is harder to endure?

Having someone you love die or having someone you "thought" loved you (a spouse or a family member for example) betray you or falsely accuse you of something inconceivable?

All I know is that being a Christian means you WILL eventually identify with the sufferings of Christ..........and those sufferings WILL bring you into conformity with the cross.

Paul said in Phillipians 3:10..."That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death".

God uses whatever means to bring us to that place and so much of it does indeed become a "thorn" in our flesh.

Those in scripture who suffered greatly did not want to live anymore.....and certainly who can blame them. Job and Jeremiah, Elijah and Paul, even Jesus struggled in the garden before His long day of "torture".

When life becomes so unbearable, the only thing to do is hide yourself in God's presence, under His wings, reading His word and talking to Him. I think that IS the only thing that brings comfort to your soul. The only problem there is with being in God's presence and sensing His peace and love is that you don't want to be in this fallen world anymore.....you want to be with Him NOW in Eternity. And that is all I long for and the Lord knows that!


"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is GAIN. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (and this part I have a hard time with) Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you".......Phillippians 1:24

What I love about Phillippians is that Paul wrote this letter, filled with Joy and encouragement and unshakable faith, not knowing whether he was going to live or die while being chained to a Roman prison.

Let me conclude with this: I am not "preaching" to anyone, only speaking from my heart and bearing testimony to how scipture has solidified in my heart because of the things I have been through. The more difficult challenges (whether they are loss, persecution, trials, lonliness, whatever) Christians go through, the more scripture should come alive and be appropriated to life. That is why it is so important to read the Bible. It is so applicable and extremely relevant to getting through life.

brentjthomas said...

I keep dropping the ball. I should be kicked off of the team, and deserve to be kicked off.

Tim Brown said...

Cindy:

I'm not sure which is tougher. But I've had to keep reminding myself that my trust is to be in the Lord, not people...or my heart would be stone by now.

Karen (Rosesandtea) said...

Dan, thanks for a great post.

-Karen, both perpetrator of and victim of, ball-dropping.

Alex said...

Thanks for the post, I'm definitely one of those who tries to ignore the issue after a certain amount of time so that the person can mourn and begin to get over the loss. I always figured if I brought it back up, it would do more harm than good. I have to rethink this according to scripture. Thanks

DJP said...

I think that's a valid thought, Alex. Different folks process grief differently. So you try to think of a way to express concern that's light, based on your knowledge of the brother/sister's personality.

"I'm praying for you; you doing all right?"

"Just want you to know if there's anything you need to talk about, I care and I'm here."

That sort of thing, maybe?

Like I saw this seriously physically disabled guy in a parking lot, decades ago. My heart went out to him. Knowing that some disabled folks are actually insulted by offers of help, in a sort of panic I thought if there was any way I could offer, without insulting him.

God was good. The idea came to me, and I asked, "Would you mind if I offered to help?"

He gratefully accepted, I had the joy of being of some use.

Ebeth said...

Dan, fyi this is the second post of yours this week which the Lord has used in my life/walk. I thank Him for using those.

Sewing said...

Dan: Interesting. I've struggled with that conundrum a few times, in interactions with strangers...would I be helping or meddling? Would I be helpful or be perceived as patronizing?

Sewing said...

Note: Of course, I'm just talking about one-time, ad hoc interactions with strangers. Obviously, with brothers and sisters in Christ, it's a far more complex issue, as has been amply treated here by Dan and all the commentators.

candyinsierras said...

Excellent post Dan.

Rebecca: I wish I was there to do things with you. I think we would have fun.

Threegirldad: Your testimony brought tears to my eyes.

One of the most touching moments when my mom died last summer was when my husband and I quietly attended our regular Sunday evening service. I had not really talked to anyone and we hoped to just slip out afterwards. On the way to the car our pastor came running toward us with tears in his eyes for our loss. I was very grateful for his heartfelt care. No words needed.

Jay said...

For the Church:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.
For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm {alone?}
And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three {strands} is not quickly torn apart.