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Weep with Those Who Weep

Dear Church Family,

Thank you for your eagerness to care for one another. As I come alongside people in our church who are suffering, I regularly hear a common refrain of thankfulness for the ministry of this body of believers. You are doing well! So I write the following to encourage you to continue to abound in love: "Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing ... But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more" (1 Thess. 4:9-10).

When people we love are going through heavy trials and facing deep grief, it can produce anxiety in us: How can I let them know I care for them? What should I say? And what should I be careful not say?

A few months ago I read a testimony from a mother in Arkansas whose oldest daughter went to heaven following a year-long battle with brain cancer. She provided some wise insights on how we can extend Christ's compassionate care to one another. They are helpful reminders to me—I want to share a few of them with you, in the hope that they will be useful to you too.

  • Be patient with those who are grieving. Grief is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to respect the fact that people need time to heal.
  • Grief comes in waves. Don’t assume that a person is “over it” if you see them smiling or laughing, and don’t assume that a person is “not doing well” if you see them grieving outwardly.
  • Suffering people may not be interested in small talk ... They are grappling with deep spiritual issues and may not be interested in shallow conversation. Listen to them if they want to talk, and don’t feel that you need to answer all their questions. Remember how well it went over once Job’s friends started talking!
  • ∙ Try not to assume you know what they're going through. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs: "The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy" (Prov. 14:10).
  • Even when you don't know what to say, don't avoid those who are suffering. Simple words like these can communicate comfort and hope, and may be exactly what your brother and sister in Christ needs to hear: "I love you, and I'm praying for you."
  • While we want to give [the grieving] plenty of room to grieve, we also want to reach out to them with the expectation that God will bring healing into their lives. And when God brings that healing, as only He can, we will find that these folks can come out of their experience with a stronger faith, a deeper understanding of Scripture, and a greater passion to serve the Lord than ever before. It’s our privilege, as the body of Christ, to walk beside them in love.*

Finally, remember that Jesus is the Man of Sorrows. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; he is acquainted with every kind of suffering.

When you feel overwhelmed with the sorrows of others, and are painfully aware of your limitations as you try to help those who are near and dear to you, praise God that the heart of Jesus is huge and full of unlimited sympathy. When you feel weary and heavy laden because you don't know how to care for someone you love, you can always go to Him, and pray these words from Pastor David Murray:

"Lord I cannot cope with all these sorrows. But you can. I have no more capacity, but you have. My sympathy reserves are empty, but yours are ever full. My heart is narrow and limited, but yours is immeasurably wide. Please take these sorrows and extend your sympathy. And more than that, add your power to your pity; add your hand to your heart. Feel what I cannot feel. And do what I cannot do."

May we continue to bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Grateful for your ministry to one another,

Pastor David Sunday

*These insights are adapted from a guest blog article by Jill Sullivan on The Gospel Coalition's website at http://shar.es/cDvu2