5 things Christians should stop saying

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.

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.

-Marlie

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50 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. Definitely stepped on a few of my toes and reminded me I need to be more engaged with what is going on in my friends lives and really be there for them and not just use these “Band-Aids” thinking they will help them. Much appreciated. Will share. God bless.

  2. Just came across this on a friend’s fb. Almost brought me to tears…Especially #3. Being a special needs parent, Christian, and wife of the church music director really makes life *interesting*. Thank you for putting into words what has been on my heart from time to time. And for reminding me to not dole out these responses to others.

    • Priscilla, hey! thanks for stopping by. So good to hear that this moved you in such a way. I’d been thinking about this post for a year, and finally got enough courage to post it. It’s a reminder to others and myself, for sure. I know what you mean. I’m surrounded by Christians for a lot of my life and when rough stuff happens it’s like a broken record, those 5 phrases. they lost their meaning, ya know? Thanks so much, again, for dropping by. And for commenting. 🙂

  3. I am a Christian, living in Spain. About 7 months ago, my (Christian) wife told me she wanted a divorce. You could really say that my house exploded.

    Since then, I have gone for coffee once with my pastor (who was in the process of retiring and training in the new guy), and 3 or 4 with the new guy. I invited a guy I know at church to go out one Saturday night and have dinner and talk about stuff, which we did. He’ll go out if I call him, but he never calls me. Last Saturday, there was an important soccer match here in Spain. I invited all the men who come regularly to church, about 7 of them, to come to my house and watch it. Every single one backed out. The only deacon in the church has never called me.

    In these 7 months, not one single person has called me to go out on a weekend night, or to ask even the band-aid questions listed above. In the depths of my depression, no one has had the strength to reach out to me and minister to me. I have one Christian friend, who does not even come to our church, who sends me Bible verses and encouraging notes 2 or 3 times a week, and we have breakfast together every Friday. Without him, I’m not sure what condition I would be in right now, or even if I would be here.

    Reach out to people.

    • Michael, thank you so much for sharing this with me. I used the house analogy because, like my Mom said, our house too has exploded.God and family are the two stable things in my life and since September my family has been torn apart through separation and, now more recently, divorce. Though, I’m not in the same shoes as you or my Mom, I see how much this is hurting my Mom so your post definitely broke my heart. I am so thankful that you have that friend in your life, something as small as getting breakfast on Fridays can mean so much. People matter so much more than our agenda for the day.
      Thank you again for sharing this. I just prayed for you and will continue to.

      -Marlie

    • Michael: touched by your post. Being someone who wishes to move to France, I have wondered what would happen were I to be overseas and widowed, since my wife is my true soul mate. I concluded that I would always have my Lord, and he would provide what I needed, regardless. That one friend you have may be enough for you. I hope and pray that it is, or that our Lord will provide you with more. One GOOD friend is worth a thousand others! [think I’ll put that on boldomatic!]

      Of course, I don’t know your situation, but I shall pray for reconciliation with your wife if at all possible. Saying “I’ll pray for you” is fine since you’re so far away, and distance is conquered by prayer. God bless you.

      Grace be with you.

    • I am so sorry that no one would reach out to you. I think people say those bandaid things and I am guilty because they don’t know what to say. Divorce is hard and having someone anyone to talk to is a great help I am sooo sorry you went through that alone. Your comment really made me think. There is a lady I am friends with on FB but dont know her well otherwise going through a separation. I am praying for her just like I said I would do but because of your post I just invited her out for coffee. Thank you for allowing Jesus to speak thru you to me.

      HUGS
      Wendy

  4. Pingback: 5 things Christians should stop saying | all for Love.

  5. This touches on those small but meaningful things we tend to overlook. I did a retrospective review as I was reading and could identify with some of the statements and thought it is important to review our words and guard our actions.

    Thank you

  6. Fantastic. Thank you. I’ve felt this way for so long, but it’s good to see it put into words. That’s one thing I didn’t like about the Christian community when I was part of it; the platitudes and the tendency towards facades. I live in a real world, I don’t know about you, and it HURTS! So thank you for this. I appreciate that you phrased this all in such a compassionate tone when it would be so easy to be derogatory or bitter. I came across it on Facebook, and it’s a definite “share” for me.

    • I definitely felt this way for a long time, too, and it took me a year to find the words to say it! Even as a Christian, it can be frustrating to get all the the “Christian” answers so I definitely relate. I think it’s important people focus less on what they say during a tragedy and more on what they do. If look back on the last 8 months of my life, I don’t remember what people said. I remember my roommate who heard me crying in my room, ran in, turned the lights on and hugged me and just let me cry. I remember my friend who took me out to get milkshakes because milkshakes help everything. I remember that friend who prayed for me right there. Actions speak louder than words, so cliche, but so true. I’m glad it didn’t come off as bitter or whiny. I was really worried about that, so thank you for that! thank you for sharing and commenting! means so much to me!

  7. Pingback: 5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying | Two are Better than One

    • That’s a good question Neal! To my knowledge, if you click “follow” on my blog then you should get an e-mail each time I post something. In the meantime, feel free to check out my other stuff. I’ve been writing since September of last year! 🙂 Also, I might create a Facebook page for the blog so I can share when I write another post and stuff.

  8. Pingback: This. | just a normal (big) boy

  9. I saw that someone had posted this Bible verse to accompany your post, Marlie. It gives a visual image of what the grieving person needs, and why suggesting Christians stop ‘saying’ these things isn’t wrong. From Job 2:13: “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

  10. Excellent! So often we say such things without thinking, though “I’m praying for you” or “I shall get our church to pray for you at the prayer meeting” for me is sincere IF the person is a Facebook friend many, many miles away, where a personal chat is not possible. I really value the few friends I have who can meet up for a talk on anything. They are worth far more than ALL my ‘acquaintances’.

    However, for me (maybe it’s because I really AM on the autistic scale), I was well into adulthood before I realised that the ‘correct’ answer to “How are you?” is “I’m fine, thanks. How are you?” I could never understand why when I replied “To be honest, I’m a bit down at the moment!” or “Just not feeling that well, thanks.” I usually got blank stares or people getting fidgety and making excuses to go somewhere else very quickly!

    Those few friends who replied positively with an open ear are the ones I STILL have; I try to meet them when we can, and I listen to them too. I feel sorry for all the ones who cannot speak to someone out of fear that they are crossing some ‘social boundary’ by saying anything but “I’m fine”

    Another thought you have sparked in my mind to be tackled some day on my own blog. Thank you.

  11. A friend shared your blog on FB. Thank for putting into words what many of us feel. I got tears in my eyes reading about your friend holding you and praying. What a special relationship with your friend and with the Lord. Many blessings.

  12. I don’t think a person who claims to be a Christians wants to be identified with those characteristics described in your blog but their are some who fit it There called fair-weather Christians or hypocrites.

    Leading your support to others when another person is weaken is the Christian action to do it but many fail at doing this but yet called themselves Christians!

    Some people have forgotten what the call to Christ really meant…

    I loved reading your blog.

    Jay

    • Exactly! It’s all about actions. It’s so cliché, but actions speak louder words especially when someone is hurting. When I look back on the darkest points in my life, I don’t remember what people said to comfort me, I remember what they did to comfort me. To follow christ is to love the broken hearted in our words but especially on our actions.

      Thanks for your comment Jay. God bless.

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