As I sat down to type today’s blog, I was feeling at a loss for content. Writing daily for 31 days is hard. Today’s schedule was overall uncomplicated. No school. Only one appointment for all the kids followed by a brunch treat. But after that there wasn’t much on our to-do lists.
But what to write about in my blog on moving in? And then I remembered this is also a blog on coping after loss, starting anew after grief.
Today I realized I had a “moving” reminder that those suffering need to be handled with care. And sometimes God’s people forget that.
This afternoon a nice lady stopped by to purchase a bathroom ceiling fan I discovered amongst the boxes after moving in. My late-husband had purchased it. I didn’t need it and couldn’t return it to the store. I posted it on Facebook and after we negotiated a price, she stopped by to pick it up.
She expressed her sympathy at my loss. She told me, as a mom of more kids than me with a husband suffering from severe medical problems, she fears ending up like me all the time. She said maybe God had placed me in her path. I asked if she had a good church to offer support. Her answer made my heart sad. “My church is great. But I don’t have much support. People don’t know how to respond.”
She’s right. All too often we don’t know how to respond to death or chronic illness. We are the People of Hope who know the God of all Comfort and yet when we encounter death or disease, we freeze or we say the wrong things. I often make friends laugh at the things I’ve heard from well-meaning people. She told me one lady at church had responded to her worries her husband wouldn’t recover, “Well, I’m recently divorced and I can tell you being single isn’t all that bad.”
Oh Jesus, save us from ourselves. Save us from equating the dissolution of a marriage with the possible death of a spouse you’d give anything to keep! Save us from dismissing pain we don’t understand or walking away because we don’t know what to say! This woman feels the pain of people in her church asking how things are going and then turning to leave because it’s not going well and they don’t want to hear why or don’t have time.
The best support I have received has often been from people who have never felt what I’m feeling but sit with me anyway. They are the people that have encouraged me to keep going while promising to walk beside me so that I can. They are the people who are willing to listen through my tears and not have anything to say but, “I’m sorry. What do you need?” They are the people that follow through with practical help.
Oh that the Church would remember we are called to carry one another’s burdens. We are called to weep with those who weep. We aren’t called to know all the answers but to know the One who does and ask Him how He needs us to respond! Oh that we would offer our meager lunches of fish and loaves to the Master and watch how He can multiply it! What do you have in your hand that God could use to help someone who is hurting in the chair across the aisle?
Oh how I wept when my pastor announced our church would be adding a Widow’s Fund to our annual budget so that we are ready to meet widow’s needs as they arise. There will be no need to fundraise but the church will have systems in place to help. Oh how I wept when my pastor’s wife thanked me for being brave enough to ask for help building shelves in my garage. It’s sometimes hard to ask. She knew that. The kind men who built them this weekend knew that.
Death is an inevitable part of life. We are going to encounter those who are grieving. It’s time followers of Jesus had a plan for how to respond—emotionally, financially, practically. Oh that God would save us from letting the busyness of life or the foreignness of death prevent us from responding to those in need.
I can say I have been surrounded by God’s people responding in the best ways possible. But that is not the case for everyone. May God help us keep doing better. May He teach us how to handle with care those who are hurting.