Context: Over the past few weeks, I have seen a lot of people experience a lot of hurt and loss. I have experienced a new framework to live by because of the pain and fear I experienced. I hope that this encourages you to love people in new ways, and to become more comfortable loving people in the midst of hurt and loss.
My friend Adam told me recently how he gets frustrated when people quote Scripture to someone who is hurting. He told me that instead of people quoting the Bible to hurting people, he wished people would embody Scripture. I thought about this for awhile. I actually love reading the Bible. I’ve quote Scripture to people who were hurting in the past. I might do so again, but if I do, I think I will do it from a different perspective going forward.
One month ago today, an MRI showed that Mom had multiple brain tumors, and would have brain surgery just a few days later. My world turned upside down that day. A week and a half after brain surgery, Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The days leading up to brain surgery, and the days after have been some of the most difficult days my family has faced. Maybe that shows that we haven’t had a very hard life. Maybe it just shows that cancer is hard to face.
The day I found out, my life changed. I decided to praise God no matter what. I also decided I would live my life with the people I love from a new perspective – I will not live in fear of what I might lose, but I will be grateful and celebrate what I have and what I had. I am truly thankful for how God has been present in this situation, and I am thankful for how people have loved my family and I. The doctors and nurses have been incredible. (If you are a doctor or a nurse, thank you. What you are doing is more important than you know.)
Here are a few things I’ve learned during this.
- I believe more than ever that Jesus is who He said He is, and that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me. I have experienced peace that passes understanding, and sometimes I have felt incredible joy right in the midst of sorrow. I’m finding a lot of the promises I’ve read in the Bible are true. (If you want to know about that, send me a message or ask me in person sometime.)
- I really love the Church. Some of you may jump off this blog right now because you don’t like the Church at all. Can I first tell you why? My family has been so loved by the Church, I can’t tell you. The Church in Boise and Tulsa showed up to be with us during surgery, has brought countless meals, prayed continuously, written notes, made calls, sent flowers, texted us, and has given us so much love. When things got bad, the Church showed up. I’m grateful.
- I believe words still matter, but I now resonate deeply with what my friend, Adam said. I don’t think we have to quote Scripture to hurting people. I think it is better to embody Scripture to people who are hurting.
To talk about not quoting the Bible to people who are hurting, I’m actually going to point to the Bible for what I’m saying. This is how the writer, John, described Jesus showing up.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
The Word became flesh. The Wisdom of the Universe became flesh. The whole counsel of God became flesh…and lived with us.
John is saying the Creator of the Universe came down to live with people. It wasn’t enough for God to just give us His words. God decided to give us Himself. Did Jesus have a lot to say about grace and truth? Yes. Do His words provide understanding of grace and truth? Yes.
God used a lot of people to talk about grace and truth. Jesus was the only one full of grace and truth. So God sent Jesus to be with us. Words only go so far to a person. Jesus went as far as a person can go, taking on the sins of the world, and in a grave He experienced death and complete separation from His Father until His Resurrection occurred. Jesus gave all of Himself. Because of this, Jesus understands more than anyone else who ever lived what it is like to experience pain, loss, and separation.
Jesus gave us His Words. Even better, Jesus became His Words.
Sometimes when someone is hurting, we don’t know what to say, but we want to say something that we hope will make things better for the other person. Sometimes, we may want to say something because of how uncomfortable we are with silence, and saying something will make us feel better. Sometimes, we might even feel like we must be the ones who speak truth to someone about who God is in a moment when they’re hurting, because we’re worried about them walking away from God altogether.
Sometimes, there’s nothing to say. Sometimes, it’s okay for things to not be okay. I think that’s part of living in this world. Sometimes, things just go really, really bad. No matter how good the words are that you have to say, they can’t change what has happened.
Now, before we go forward, don’t worry. This is not a passive aggressive blog towards anyone I’ve talked to. Like I said, people have been a huge blessing to me. The Church has been incredible to my family. If you have done any of the things I mention below, I have no frustration with you. To every person who has been part of this journey with us, I LOVE YOU and I’M THANKFUL FOR YOU.
When it comes down to it, I actually don’t remember much of what people said over the past few weeks. It is partly from living with high-adrenaline, and possibly because I have the memory of a hamster. Mostly, it is because what I really remember is how people showed up. I remember people texting, calling, visiting, and praying but I can’t remember much of what anyone said.
Here are a few things I’ve learned not to say.
- “Are you okay?” They’re probably not okay. Their world just got rocked, and they are likely the furthest thing from okay. They probably won’t know what to say to the question, and it may just get awkward.
- “It’s okay.” Actually, it may not be okay. It’s okay for things to not be okay. Okay?
- “I know how you feel.” Unless you’ve been down the road that person is walking on, you don’t know how they feel. And even if you’ve been down that road, you may not know how they feel because you’re not them. That’s okay. We don’t have to know how people feel. We can be with them.
- “How are you doing? No, how are you really doing?” If they don’t answer the first time around in depth, they probably just don’t feel like it then. It’s nothing against you, don’t worry. And it’s okay if they don’t bare their soul to you, but they do to one of your best friends. Let them do what they need to do.
- “A speech on grief.” It is okay to not give someone who is grieving a speech on grief. While the speech may be cognitively correct, it often misses things emotionally and experientially. Also, I bet you that they don’t want to hear the speech right then.
- “The Bible says…” There will be a time when you look at the same Scriptures together. And maybe you are supposed to share a verse with someone. Just don’t feel like you have to share a verse to make things better. They know it cognitively. They need to experience the verse.
Sometimes, there’s nothing to say. Even from the Bible. Sometimes, it’s okay for things to not be okay.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is show up, and do what Jesus did in John 11:35.
When you see someone hurting, I want to encourage you that you don’t have to be afraid of walking on pins and needles. You don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. If they don’t want to be around you right then, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s just what’s happening inside of them.
Imagine how good it can be to comfort those you love when you don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. At that point, you are free to love people. You are free to be with people. You are to free to be silent with them.
When someone is hurting, I encourage you to do this:
Embody the Word of God.
Become the Scriptures you love so much.
Let the Whole Counsel of God become flesh as you walk up and hug somebody. As you sit in silence with somebody. As you cry with somebody.
Be like Jesus. Become His Words.