I was out running an errand at lunch when I heard a text alert. The message was brief. “I’m praying for you all. Everything’s going to be fine.”
My chest tightened and I had a moment right there in the greeting card aisle at Hobby Lobby even as hymns played on the store background music. “Easy for you to say!” I angrily spewed under my breath.
The text was in response to a group message recently sent by a member of my family. Her daughter’s cancer had been in remission – but it’s active again. The news shared is sobering. Her health is deteriorating rapidly. She’s not fine and there is no assurance that she’s going to be fine.
Fine means in good health and feeling well. As much as that is our prayer and hope for her, today she is struggling with serious medical issues. That response appears to minimize the gravity of her condition and the normal maternal response to it.
The people closest to her are faced constantly with the reality of her current condition, regardless of their hope for complete healing and wellness.
I quickly sent a private text to this dear momma, assuring her that people mean well but say dumb things.
Perhaps I reacted so passionately out of empathy. I’ve recently been told the same about another situation that is far from “fine”. It is gut-wrenching, frightful, and agonizing. The tentacles of it have infiltrated and lodged themselves deep into the lives of real people, people who still get out of bed every morning, wake the children, make the coffee and make a living to pay the bills and feed a family while this “situation” hangs over their heads like a storm cloud about to erupt.
The texter likely intended to convey positive thoughts or a message of faith in a few words. I’ve resolved to assume the best about people’s intentions and extend grace. To that end, my message today is intended to suggest thoughtful and compassionate responses to such hard things taking place in others’ lives.
There is an excellent Biblical example in Job’s friends. Though they eventually failed miserably, they got the three things I mentioned (mostly) right. Check out these points from Job: 2:11-13 (ESV)
- They came to him when he was suffering. “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…they made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.”
- They empathized with him.“..they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.”
- They spent time with him.“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights…”
Thankfully, today’s social norms don’t include tearing of clothing or scattering of dust! Your presence will be a blessing.
Show up. As soon as possible, set aside a few minutes to speak by phone or in person. Ask appropriate questions and demonstrate genuine concern. Let your friend know you are engaged and available to them. Encourage them to endure; remind them that God sees their pain. Keep showing up – this will require intention, but isn’t your friend worth it?
Follow up. Even if it means putting an item on your calendar for a couple of weeks away, send a card, call or text. Remind them that you have not forgotten and are still praying.
If you’ve read the full book of Job, you know that his friends didn’t remain silent for long. In fact, they droned on and on under the assumption that Job’s suffering was the result of sin in his life. Get this if you don’t get anything else: like Job’s friends, we may know a lot about the Bible but we don’t know the mind or heart of God. Leave it alone.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)
By His grace alone,