We are no strangers to pain, sorrow and anguish. Jesus, never one to hide the truth, reminds us that in the world there will be tribulation. So when loss touches those we love, when the consequences of living in a fractured world smacks them, knocking them off their feet, and they begin to flounder, struggle, question, get angry, sink into darkness – what are we to do?
All too often the response of Christians is to rush into a place where angels would fear to tread – the scared place of suffering. They come armed with Bible verses, precious promises, spewing these supposed words of encouragement and comfort that bring no comfort but often cause more pain, further anguish and even end up pointing the person away from God.
So what are we to do? Paul, building on the example of Jesus, puts it quite simply: “weep with those who weep”, for when at the tomb of his dear friend, Lazarus, Jesus stops and weeps. Jesus, knowing that in a matter of moments his friend would live again, weeps. When we are granted the sacred privilege to be invited into the suffering of another we are there to be with, suffering with, be present to the person. It is this presence, not our words, that is needed – a presence that creates the space and safety for the person to be open, honest, communicative, silent, angry, sorrowful, in short to be real and unedited in the moment.
Remember the words of Paul, the example of Jesus.
I leave you with the words below I penned many years ago as I came face to face with overwhelming loss and grief - a time when I could feel myself sinking beneath the waves of despair. It was these words of Jesus and the Jesus lived out in the presence of those who loved me that help me during that time, that help me in the now of my life.
He is in heaven
He is happy
He is with Jesus
All things work together for good…
Like spit on a hot grill
are traditional words of comfort
they dance on the surface
soon to evaporate into nothingness
like water poured out on to a dry sponge
two words penetrate
Jesus grieves with me
Jesus embraces me and my sorrow
Jesus doesn't rush to the truth of the resurrection
Jesus sits with me
feels with me
hurts with me
weeps with me
an invitation to tarry in my grief
an invitation to embrace my
he is with me
he knows my pain
he knows me
Jesus weeps and so do I
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