Late Tuesday evening, an explosion is heard in your neighborhood. You run outside to see what happened. Other neighbors are exiting their houses in various states of shock and confusion. You join the crowd walking/running towards the noise. Just around the corner, you see the house, or rather what’s left of it. Your heart breaks. It is your close friend’s house and so far your friend is nowhere to be found. You decide to search the remains to find your friend. Indeed, you find him, underneath a fallen bed post. He’s covered in ash and dirt. You lift the post and see his shattered leg and have to swallow the urge to scream. He is conscious. You start shouting to your neighbors. “Help! Come help! He’s alive! But he’s hurting!” They come over. A woman looks at him as he writhes silently in pain. She reaches in her purse, you think she is pulling out her phone to dial 911. But instead she starts pulling out band-aids. She passes them out among the neighbors and they all work together to put bandaids on him. Your face fills with disgust and confusion. “What are you guys doing? His bones are shattered. Those are not going to help him.”
They start to speak:
“Are you okay?” One asks your friend.
Your friend has no strength to speak. After no response, the neighbor shrugs and walks away.
“The ambulance is coming soon. Just be strong.” A man says and walks away.
“let me know if you need anything.” His wife adds.
“I’ll pray for you and let my small group know this happened.” A young student said.
It’s not everyday that a house down the street spontaneously explodes. However, reality as we know it sometimes does. You know how it is, life is going so well and then a phone call, or an email from a relative or friend begins with “I have bad news…” And boom, your life explodes. Your ears are ringing from the shock and and it takes awhile for the ashes to settle, until you really can become aware of what you’re dealing with. Friends and family hear the news and flood to the rescue. And people, especially Christians, say things, meaning well, but they in the reality of the situation don’t really help. I’ll refer to them now as “verbal band-aids.”
1) “Are you okay?”
-I don’t like this question because it makes me choose “yes” or “no”. If I say yes, will you write me off and go about your life? If I say no, will you freak out and try and fix the situation. Instead, Ask me how I am feeling. And not just the first time we talk about what happened, but frequently. “how are you feeling?” Opens up the door for me to talk about whatever I want.
2)Let me know if you need anything
I just need you to be my friend. Listen to me. Shoot me a text. Call me. Reach out to me because you are strong right now and I am weak and hurting.
3) I’m here if you need to talk: anytime, any day. Really!.”
It’s so easy to feel alone especially when rough things are going on. Countless people have told me this and how many have I called? Only a few. Instead, try engaging me in conversation. Inviting me to go get coffee or see a movie. I’ll welcome the break and really enjoy being around someone.
4) “God has a plan.”
Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28. etc. etc. I know God has a plan, but His plan is hurting me right now. Telling me it will all work in the end, doesn’t help me here in the now. 1 year down the road, this might make sense, but right now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to work a job, write my undergraduate thesis admist all that is already going on . It doesn’t hurt to be reminded, but we know: turn to Jesus, cast your cares on Him, Run to Jesus. We’ve heard those things and we’re doing them the best way we know how.
Instead: Be real with us. Acknowledge the suckiness of the situation, weep with those who weep. Be present with me in this pain, because that’s where I’m at right now.
5) I’m praying for you.
Last semester I was sitting outside the apartments and writing in my journal, a friend came up to me and just casually asked how I was doing. I broke down crying and she started to hug me. It was one of those hugs where you get that person’s shoulder wet with your tears. The craziest thing happened, she just started praying, out loud. She didn’t know what was going on or why i was crying. She just prayed for me. That meant so much. So much more than comments on Facebook or texts from someone saying they are praying for me. Not that I doubt them or the power of prayer, but the Enemy lies so much and can convince us that we’re abandoned. But Satan’s lies lose weight when you’re hugging a friend and you can hear her praying and see her tears.
When tragedy strikes nearby, it might be tempting to grab the band-aids and cover up the wounds of your friends. Covered up or not, it still hurts. Let’s leave the fixing up to God, put the band-aids away and listen to our friends. Go get coffee, go to a park, wherever and whatever, be present and available. An open ear, open heart, a hug or a prayer might be exactly what they need.
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
(Added note: for updates on new blog posts please go to: http://www.facebook.com/beyondthesurfaceblog)
You guys rock.