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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Good News From Christianity: Less Can Be More

What to do???
You visit a suffering family member or friend at home or in the hospital. You don't know what to say. You don't know what to do. You leave feeling frustrated and useless. You wish you could fix things. You're angry you can't. It feels so bad you avoid going back. You hope the person gets well soon. You want your comfortable relationship back.

We're told to reach out and comfort the sick. We Christians know we should. But it's so hard. Especially when there is nothing we can do to fix the situation ... and we really want to fix it!

Here's where the Bible offers some guidance. In the book of Job, a book that emphatically states life is not a bowl of cherries for a strong and righteous believer (or anyone else for that matter), Job's three friends come to him in his suffering, for he is suffering greatly. Job 2: 11-13 reads: 

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. 
Let's give these well-intentioned friends credit. For seven days, they got it exactly right. That's a long time not to try and fix things. But what they did before they started trying to fix Job's situation is just what we should do.

When you visit an incapacitated friend or loved one, be like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were at first. Be there with the person. Be a calming presence in the room. Not much needs said. Being there helps a whole lot (being sick in bed is incredibly lonely work). If the person chooses to speak, there is only one thing you need to do and do well. Listen to that person with sympathy. Really listen to them. You don't have to worry about your answers. They don't want your answers. And as for solutions, you aren't the one to provide them. If the person, in anger and pain, makes declarations like God has abandoned me or there is no God or this wouldn't have happened ... let it go. This is no time for theology. This is time for vented grief, for getting the poison out of the system. Let it flow. There will be time to talk later when healing occurs.

Don't worry what you'll say or do in your visit. Be present and listen. That's what you'll be remembered for by the person who is/was sick. And you'll be appreciated for having done so. If the illness is protracted, repeat this procedure as often as you can.

Less is most definitely more in this situation. Good luck to you and may your friend or loved one be returned to health ... or relieved from suffering ... soon.


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