I’m working my way through Psalm 13, getting ready for this Sunday. Its opening words are “HOW LONG, O LORD?” In fact, this phrase gets repeated four times.
They are the words of a beaten down, tired soul longing for an end to the storms and darkness that seem to dominate his life. Perhaps they are words you are crying, too. Perhaps you know someone for whom you cry this. “How long, O Lord?”
One of the things that Sharon and I give thanks for at KCRC is the way this church community gives permission for everyone to be real. No skimming past the struggles. No hurrying to patch together solutions. No trying to stick a Band-Aid on the wound, or silence the cries. Just being there for each other. The way Jesus was there for people when he was here on earth.
I get very impatient with religious circles where it seems everything has to be about neatly combed hair, well-polished smiles and everyone sitting in a nice row in Sunday best; where it’s all about triumph and blessing and happy. So NOT REAL. Nor what God wants.
If you read Psalm 13 you might find it striking that 2/3 of the poem is focused on the struggle. Giving voice to the pain. Expressing the frustration and worry. Only 1/3 – at the end – is about hope. Which is the way so much of life can be. Lots of struggle. And have to strain forward and often wait before there is hope.
Lord, help us at KCRC to continue to grow as a community of very average people, with all sorts of warts and bruises and scars and struggles, that is ready to:
- share each others’ pain
- carry the load together
- join in the walk through the dark valleys.
- together bring those struggles to God in prayer.
Some years ago I saw the movie Alaska, the tale of two kids searching for their father in the wilderness. At one point the boy falls into raging rapids. He is swept along, pulled under, bashed against rocks, gasping, out of control. Several times he manages to splash towards the shore. But there are high rocks there. They are smooth, wet, slippery. And every time he falls back in and gets swept further along. Till suddenly a hand grasps his and pulls him free, the hand of a strong neighbour who had gone out in a search party looking for him.
Sometimes life can be like. The circumstances of the moment simply are overwhelming. They pull us under and bash us around. We need a strong hand to be there, a hand to pull us free. That is the hand of Christ, the hand that is active here on earth through the Community of Jesus followers. Friends, we are the hands and feet of Jesus that reach out and steady those who are stumbling, hug those that are out of gas, and walk alongside those that are discouraged.
On that note – was connecting with someone earlier this week about what to say… or not… when someone is struggling. Here’s my take on it:
DON’T SAY (either to the person, or to someone else about that person):
- I wonder what God is trying to teach you?
- remember that “God works all things for good.” It’ll be fine.
- I think God did this to….
- There are others who are worse off
- Isn’t it time to let it go, and get on with life?
- I read/heard about a cure. What you need to do is…
- Let me know when we can do something ('cause chances are, this person is too tired to ask. Offer specifics.)
- I’d come by, but hospitals/nursing homes/seeing sickness creeps me out. I can’t handle it.
- Yes, I know just how you feel.
And, please don’t visit and have the conversation revolve around yourself. You’re there to listen to them, and share their burden and walk in their shoes. This is their time. And don’t stay too long.
WHAT’S WORTH SAYING:
- I’ll pray for you (As long as you mean it. And if the setting/time is right, perhaps they’re open to you praying with them right there. Often a good way to approach this is, “Would you like me to pray with you now, or shall I pray for you later when I’m at home?”)
- I’m sorry to hear this.
- Here’s a meal for your freezer.
- Is there a chore I can do for you this week?
- May I stay with N_____ so that you can get out for a while?
- Consider saying nothing… but share a hug.
And, when you’re with them: look at them, not at the interesting stuff happening outside their window. Lean forward toward them, rather than slouching away – helps to focus, and sends signals that you are truly caring about what they are saying.
What might you add to either list?
Love to hear from you.
Great post! It made me think of Job, when his three friends first saw what had happened to him they, "began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." Later on in the book, when they tried all their words, things didn't go so well. There is much to be said for a "ministry of presence" without words.
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