From a Widow's Pen

Reflections From the Heart

Category: Insight Into Hurt

Ministering in Early Grief

People have asked my input on how they can best minister to one in the early stages of grief.
With a touch of whimsy and a large degree of truth, here you are….
(I’m certain I will be bestowed an honorary PhD once you hear and ponder the answer.)

The question: You are grieving. How can I help you?

The answer: You can’t!! (Where’s my PhD?)

Here’s the deal:
(1) If you call them, they won’t answer because they don’t want to talk (likely due to them feeling alone or forgotten). But if you don’t call, they’ll feel alone or forgotten.

(2) If you send texts, they’ll feel cheated because they can’t really tell you how they feel (which is very likely alone or forgotten). But if you don’t text they’ll feel alone or forgotten. And if you decide to call instead of text, well, (see #1) above.

(3) If you invite them to dinner they won’t come because they don’t want to pretend to be happy. But if you don’t invite them, they’ll feel alone or forgotten. And, well, if you call to invite them, they won’t answer (see #1) and if you send a text they’ll be upset (see #2) because you didn’t call (see #1) so how are they going to express how they feel? Now they feel alone or forgotten.

So there you have it. You are destined to not do it “right” and they are destined to feel alone or forgotten. Until one day when they do answer the phone, respond to the text and come over for dinner. All because you persistently called, texted or invited.

All I can say is follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. If He leads you to call, do it. Even if they didn’t answer the last 10 times. If He leads you to text, do it. Even if all they reply is “I’m great” (which is never true by the way). And if He leads you to invite them over, do it. They’ll likely say “no” (and then you don’t really have to cook or clean) but they might say “yes”. And each of you will walk one step closer to healing.

Standing on the Edge of Organized Religion

I once thought people who had no church or religious affiliation were sad and hopeless. They had no anchor in times of grief. But, today, I stand on the edge of the field. Behind me, the path I am now traveling, is dark and empty. It is a void. It is filled with me trying to be something I’m not. It is filled with me trying to live up to an expectation I can’t. I can’t be the one who smiles when life is tough and spouts Scripture to find strength anymore. It is not working. The smile is false and I have no strength at all.

I look the other way, a step towards no organized religion. There is nothing on this side that says I have to accept all that is bad because there is no higher calling. Nothing on this side says hurt is necessary to perfect you. Hurt is just hurt on this side. You learn to bury it, to become numb to it. There are just my own rules on this side; my own ability to forget; my own ability to not care; my own ability to focus only on me. It’s greener that way. The road ahead is short. I can’t see where it leads. But maybe I don’t care? Maybe that road would be easier if only for a bit? I could use a break. Should I take a step?

I’m standing in the field weighing my decision and I hear behind me, faint voices, calling:

“Where will you lead us?”

My burden is made heavier. The decision to walk away from organized religion does not just affect me. It affects them as well.

I start to question. What if it is true – all they say about Christ? That He is the Messiah; the Saviour of the world; that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. All others will suffer eternal separation.

And then I feel it. A gentle hand pulling me away from the edge of the field. I don’t have to question “what if” it is true. I know it is true. I have walked with my Saviour for many years. He has never let me travel to this depth before but He has never left me. Why would I leave Him?

The path I am on was never truly void or empty. I see now that the path of no religion is only greener on the surface to tempt me to take the step. The vegetation appears pleasant but it will not sustain. Wide is the path that leads to destruction but narrow the path that leads to life.

As my Saviour and I walk away from the edge, back into the desolation, I see that it does not go on forever. There is in fact a brighter field, greener and more lush, than the field of no religion. I see my children there, playing in it. They are drinking milk and eating honey. They are skipping with the Lamb. It is truly the best choice. And I wonder why did I ever travel to the edge of the field? How did I get there? I suppose it doesn’t matter as long as I make the choice to not stay there. I will not stay there. My choice is to follow my Saviour where He leads. My choice is to one day drink the milk, eat the honey and skip with the Lamb.

How to Encourage Those Who Hurt

I often get the feeling that folks think telling me depressing stories of others worse off than myself will be encouraging.

“I know a widow woman who has 10 kids, all less than 3 months old. She doesn’t have a degree or any work experience, so she earns money to buy food by knitting Walmart sacks into puppies and selling them on the internet for a fraction of what they are worth. And one of her sons has 3 arms and 6 legs. Imagine the time she has each night teaching him to keep his feet off the dinner table!”

And everyone replies – “Oh My!! Bless her heart!!”

I struggle with finding this encouraging. In fact, I often find it depressing. When you are hurting you already have a heightened sense of all that is bad in the world. All this does is remind me that I have further to fall, more to lose.

To minister to one who is hurting is not to offer great advice or have the right answers. It is to offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. It is to let them tell the same story over and over again.

It is to offer the heartfelt probe: “How are you?” which is so often left untouched. It is a question to be asked, however, only if you have time and are in a place to receive an answer. You don’t have to worry about saying something wrong. You see the pressure has been lifted. The hurting do not need advice. They need a friend. In fact, once you pose the question, you likely will not have to talk at all. I cannot promise, though, that you will not have to endure an uncomfortable flow of tears.

And please, my friend, do not give up on them. Sometimes, the masquerade of having it all together is so well played, they are not able to let the charade down; although they may desperately want to if just for a moment.

We are a hurting world and we need each other. God did not stop with the creation of only one individual. He created a nation of individuals by instructing us to multiply. Not because He needed us (although He definitely wanted us), but because we need each other. We can not lose sight of that in the busyness of our individual lives.

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