A friend is someone who helps you when you're down, and if they can't, they lay down beside you and listen. Author Unknown
Today's post will be a little "preachy" as I share another life lesson God is teaching me through J.J.'s diabetes & other life trials. I know God is pressing something upon my heart and mind when I hear and see examples from multiple places in a very short amount of time. So today I want to focus on what we say, not say, and do with people in complex life situations, or any situation for that matter where we truly have no comprehension or understanding.
My first advice is to BE QUIET and LISTEN and SYMPATHIZE. I'll use a Bible passage for this: Job 2:11-13. Here we see Job's friends approaching him after he has pretty much lost everything but his wife. And I mean everything....including his 10 children, his health, his wealth, etc. He's had a rough time of it. So in come his "friends". Here we see their intentions are right.....they want to sympathize and comfort Job(vs 11). Then we see them weeping with Job (vs12), and we see them remaining silent(v13). These guys have it right, up to this point.
When people are going through some pretty difficult times the best we can do is sit with them, not say a word, shed a tear or two or two-thousand, and listen. So often we think there has to be more than that, that we have to open our mouths. I know I do. I talk from nervousness. I talk from being uncomfortable with the situation. But if I'm not thinking about myself, I'll realize the best thing to do is to sit and listen and sympathize.
My second advice is to NOT OFFER PAT ANSWERS TO COMPLEX and HARD TO UNDERSTAND LIFE SITUATIONS. This is where Job's friends get into big trouble. They opened their mouths. I won't try to unpack all their "advice", but I will say that a lot of it was theologically right. The problem was it was spoken with a lack of compassion. It was spoken from a lack of understanding of who God is and what He accomplishes through suffering. It ended up NOT consoling Job what-so-ever. In fact it led Job to go down thought processes he probably wouldn't have otherwise.....to the point where God is rebuking Job. I wonder if these "friends" weren't there if Job would've needed to be rebuked? But either way he learned a lesson as well: Don't listen to "friends" such as this, but do pray for them.
So what do I mean about PAT...ie "textbook".... answers to life's complex situations? To offer an example and exhortation I'll quote from a book the girls and I are reading together, Words That Hurt Words That Heal, by Carole Mayhall. The author writes:
"After my sister's painful death, I went through a period of non-feeling. I seemed to be dead inside-void of any feeling, either happy or sad. Even my times with the Lord were blah. When I told an acquaintance of this, she said quickly, "It must be an attack of Satan." It wasn't, but her surface answer stifled further discussion.
Before Joye's death, I could have given you several reasons for pain and suffering. After her death, I could have given you those same reasons. But I wouldn't have. I came to realize that reasons don't help when a person is crushed with grief.
.....But God's ways are higher than either our ways or our comprehension. In the complexities of life, we flounder until we accept the fact that while truth is simple, life is, in many cases, impossible to understand.
Please then, deliver me from cliches. Deliver me from pat answers. Deliver me from surface statements about deep and complex issues. Deliver me from careless speech."
The third bit of advice is tied closely to the second: DO NOT TRY TO BE MR. or MRS. FIX-IT. To me this is a person that goes a bit beyond the pat answers. Spends a little more time "talking" to you, trying to FIX you. Unfortunately when people are in deep hurts and pain, they cannot be "FIXED". It takes time for the hurt to subside. And sometimes the hurt comes and goes as "scabs" get ripped off again and again. It's a process that takes time....and the element of time is different for everyone. Often with this type of person it's more about them, than it is about you. They don't want to "feel" your pain anymore, so they're going to fix it.
The next bit of advice is tied to the first: DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO UNDERSTAND. This requires time. It requires patience. It requires hours and hours of just ASKING QUESTIONS and truly LISTENING...or in the blog world... READING! Do you want to understand a little bit of our "new" lives? Read this blog! It will take time if you haven't been with us from the beginning. But it will help you understand the ride we are on.
I totally understand as well, that even though we can take the time to try to understand a persons complex life situations we may truly NEVER understand. But at least we've made the effort. We've remained quiet. We've sat, we've listened, we've wept. And there may come a time where we feel compelled (through the Holy Spirit) to open our mouths or our keyboard. If we do I hope we do it after taking the time to listen, after much prayer, and with gentleness. The tongue of the wise does bring healing.....but too often we speak rashly!(Proverbs 12:18)
Finally, the very best thing you can do for a person in life's complex difficult situations: PRAY!
James 5:13 says "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray."
Obviously this is exhorting the one suffering to pray. But it's a privilege for others to offer up prayers as well for those that are suffering. And if you tell the person you are praying for them....I hope you REALLY are praying for them. I've been guilty of saying I'm in prayer for someone or some situation when in reality if I did pray it wasn't true intercessory praying. That may not make sense, but basically it was a quick prayer without thought.
I know some have gotten to this point and are thinking..."Wow, I'm not saying anything to them again." But that's not what I'm saying at all. So many people have given us "healing words", it's incredible. People with life giving words are those that have an understanding of suffering, that have learned the lessons I'm writing about today. Their words are not pat answers, their words are from the depth of suffering themselves. Their words are spoken with tears. Their words are spoken after much listening. I'm just saying....we all could learn some of these life lessons....imagine if we all spoke only after much prayer and pondering.
So..anyway...these thoughts have been on my mind lately. While I know this post is "preachy", I'm really preaching to myself. These are the things I'm learning through our own complex life situation. But I hope these thoughts are helpful to you as well.