“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.”
Romans 12:15 (The Message)
I think one of the hardest things about being a Christ-follower is not trivializing what life throws at us with a Bible verse or a Christian cliché.
You know, the standard ones most people share…
“God will never give you more than you can handle.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“God has plans to prosper you and not harm you.” Jeremiah 29:11
“You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” Philippians 4:13
I could go on and on.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE God’s word, and believe with all my heart we need to cling to its truths when life is turned upside down.
The problem arises when we don’t understand what is Biblical truth and what is a Christian cliché and when is the right time to share what we know.
For instance, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” This sounds like such a great phrase to hold onto when our problems are overwhelming us. The problem is it’s not in the Bible.
Over the years well-meaning people have taken the idea from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Hallelujah! I love this verse and am extremely grateful that God will always provide a way out of “temptation” for us, but this is not saying that the hardships of life will never be too much for us.
When I look at people I love who’ve walked through cancer, losing children, endured painful divorces, or forms of abuse too atrocious to speak of, I am well aware of the fact that at times life does throw more at us than we can ever possibly handle on our own.
But hope is found in knowing that while life events may be more than we can handle, they are NEVER more than what God can handle. And so he allows, at times, life to be more than we can handle so we will cling to him for hope, strength, and endurance that only he can provide.
But what about the verses from Jeremiah and Philippians? We clearly see these in the Bible. Aren’t these verses great reminders for us and those around us who are struggling?
Of course, they are because God’s word is our hope. The problem is never with God’s word, but with our timing of sharing it.
As one who has had the privilege of walking with people through many painful experiences over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what to say and when to say it. I promise you, I am no expert on this topic. However, the one thing that hurting people have shared with me over, and over, and over again is this… “The people who’ve been the most helpful in my pain have been those who’ve sat and cried with me or said nothing.”
As a people of God, we need to get better at being comfortable with the uncomfortable. We need to allow people space to feel their pain and not try to push them through it by slapping a “Jesus band-aid” on them. We need to step back and not be fearful when those around us rage at God or ask him hard “Why?” questions. He’s big enough to handle their pain, even if we’re not.
So why are we as Christ-followers so bad at this?
The simple answer is we are so uncomfortable with those we love hurting that we try to fill the pain-soaked air with something; anything to bring comfort and hope. I truly believe this comes from a heart of love, but what if we learned to do this differently?
What if we as Christ-followers learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable? What if we trusted God’s healing presence to show up even when we say and do nothing but hold someone’s hand and cry with them? What if a silent prayer for your friend, that only you and God can hear, is whispered?
Can you imagine the level of trust in God we’d be showing the person we’re sitting with if we allowed God to hold us together in the awkwardness of their pain?
Yes, this is so much easier to say than do, but it is worth it! When we learn to “just be” with people in their pain, trusting God to bring the words, when or if needed, we are living out what it means to be a people of hope and trust in our Savior.
Maybe this is what it really means to be the hands and feet of Jesus!
For Your Reflection…
Learning to “just be” with people when they are hurting and not trying to fill the awkwardness with words is difficult. What has been most helpful to you when life’s been overwhelming?
Can you think of a time when you were struggling and “reassuring words” did more harm than help for your situation? How did that make you feel?
Next time you are in a place of uncomfortable pain-soaked grief with another person, I encourage you to silently pray. Pray for wisdom and healing for that person. If God has words for you to speak, I am confident he will bring them.