If everyone will forgive me, I’m going to deviate from straightforward apologetics for this post.
I can’t seem to get the R.E.M. tune, “Everybody Hurts” out of my head. A wonderful friend of mine is in anguish of soul right now (my second prayer request in two posts – different friend though), and the song seems to fit. This has raised the question in my mind: how do you respond to someone who is living their darkest hour to date right before your eyes?
If you think this is a question with a simple answer, then you have a lot of growing up to do. When someone comes to you in pain, the last thing you want to do is minimize their suffering – take it from someone who’s experienced his share of hurt and disappointment. Nor do you want to offer a pat answer as if you could just print off a form letter, sign it, and slap it in their hands to make everything better. No one wants to hear your pep talk, your “you’ll make it through this a stronger person” speech. No one wants to be patronized with “suffering builds character” remarks made comfortably from the sidelines as the one actually suffering bleeds it out in the ring.
What, then? What path should Job’s comforters take? Very well, I will tell you what I have concluded.
“What?” you say. “You mean I shouldn’t try to cheer them up?”
That’s exactly right.
“And I shouldn’t give them my well-reasoned and brilliant advice?”
You got it.
“And I shouldn’t point out that everybody goes through trials and it’s in the blazing fires of life that we are refined and purified?”
“And I should avoid the temptation to quote Bible passages to them and make them see how this is all in God’s gracious providence and that He has a plan for their lives even if things seem bleak right now because His purposes will be accomplished and His strength is made perfect in weakness?”
Because words are not what your friend needs right now. His hope has been shattered, his dreams crushed, and you think a little cheerleading or wise advice is going to get him to rally on the turn of a dime? Let him grieve, and for Pete’s sake, don’t let him do it alone.
Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before His arrest? In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 26 beginning in verse 36, we are given a profound picture of what “bearing one another’s burdens” means to our Lord. Verse 37 tells about how, when they had come to Gethsemane, Jesus left all of His disciples and, taking with Him only Peter, James, and John, went to spend time in prayer. Please note that these three were His closest friends – they were the privileged trio who were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, who “saw His glory and spoke about it”.
Why did Jesus have those three there, in the midst of His suffering and anguish (which Luke tells us was so severe His sweat became like drops of blood)? Why not leave them with the other disciples further back? After all, they seem to be more of a nuisance than anything; He is always having to go to wake them, exhorting them to remain awake – to keep watch with Him. What purpose did they serve?
The answer is simple: they were there.
Read the Matthew account, and meditate on verse 38 in particular. Even Jesus, in His darkest hour, needed His friends there with Him. Not to talk Him through it. Not to psych Him up. Not to give well-meaning advice or quote Bible passages to Him. Not to tell Him that it would all be over soon and that everything would be okay because God the Father is in control.
Just to be there.
Just to be.
If you are going through a season of trials in your life, take heart. As R.E.M. sings: “Everybody hurts”. But it’s the words they conclude with that underscore the true comfort and hope we have as Christians. Even when your friends are too busy or too distant or selfish to be with you…
“You are not alone.”
The Solid Rock
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When ev’ry single prop gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
—Edward Mote (1797-1874)