Been in the room too many times when the cancer is diagnosed, when the baby is lost, when the marriage is over. Tears and snot running down faces too beautiful to be puffy from hopeless weeping. Daughters and sons, husbands, friends – the awkward moments leave silence and space between relationships. Who knows what to say?
Most often everyone steps back. The pain is uneasy, tense. Our comfort is at risk. This is a time for the pastor to step in. The family to step in. The doctor to step in. The counselor to step in. Someone else. Not us. We aren’t trained or prepared. They write whole books on how to deal with this stuff. We feel foolish. Can’t fix it, and that is what we want to be able to do.
I remember times of pain, some near, others long ago and forgotten by others.Sitting in a purple plaid chair in the hospital lobby, alone, tears streaming down my face. That day as he died, I knew what loss felt like. Another time, fear and pain consumed me. I was just a child, lying in the hospital bed alone. The medications given into my arm were supposed to make me better, but also had side effects of making me hallucinate, the terror was so real. Such confusion in the midst of hurting so badly. And then again, when their marriage broke down, so lonely, such despair. Whose was I? Not theirs, so hers? Or his? In heartbreak. In despair. A thousand times I have had reason to cry.
David cries out to God in the midst of his distress – “Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.” So sad to cry out, and hear no one answer.
Who hasn’t bled, who hasn’t cried, who hasn’t lost. Each member of the body of Christ has been through circumstances that have pain us, shaped us, sometimes scarred us. Each has some compassion to share, a shoulder to lend. But we don’t want to share or lend. When the uncomfortable times of grief, or pain, or confusion come we want to draw away. But maybe God has been training us just for that moment, to step in. To try, knowing we may fail. To offer silence, or words. Provision, or even only presence.
The Word says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, and later regarding the body of Christ, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it”. We were meant for this. It is part of our life together.
Christ left the example for us. He didn’t just find Himself in the midst of the needy, He went out to be among them. He stepped into the world of dust and filth. He saw the Samaritan woman at the well, thirsty and tired. But he met her not exalted as He deserved, but dirty, thirsty, and tired Himself. He multiplied bread for the multitudes, knowing hunger Himself. He took Judas’s foul kiss, feeling the knife in His back, stabbed by betrayal. He watched His mother weep, as her heart was broken. He cried out to the Father for relief on that dreadful day, feeling His abandonment for the first time. He looked in Peter’s eyes as the rooster crowed, knowing that his best friend had been too ashamed to claim Him. He bled. He cried. He lost. And because of this He understands our trials and our pain. He also understands our weaknesses, sympathizes with us, and provides mercy and grace for our times of need. We are to be His, imaging Him into the broken places and broken lives, not just the easy, comfortable situations. May we have boldness and compassion to walk toward those in pain rather than walk away. He has trained us through our own trials, for times such as these.