I like fixing things. I like working with tools, and tools just for their own sake. I like to troubleshoot anything mechanical and figure out what is causing it not to function properly – to diagnose where it is broken. Then comes the decision to either plan out a repair, or to discard. I enjoy the process of discovery, digging into the engineering behind the machine, discovering the function of the pieces. But what do you do when the broken thing that has drawn your attention is a person?
People “break” for many different reasons and in many different ways. The death of a family member, friend, or person who has influenced our lives is a frequent source of breaking.
Last year I experienced the death of my father, which while it was sudden was not totally unexpected. He had had previous heart attacks, had an implanted defibrillator, and was not in the best of health. However, nothing prepares you for loss like that until happens. Even when the person who has passed is a Christian and as fellow Christians we know that they are with Jesus, there is still loss.
In my case one of the losses was lost fellowship with my dad and best friend. He was the guy I would always call when stuck on a problem or unsure of the right next step. We saw each other or talked on the phone almost every day. I still reach for the phone to call him sometimes. I know he is with Jesus, but my loss still hurts. Then there are my children, now minus their grandfather (Papa). All of the memories they will never get to make together, the loss of a big influence in their lives.
Anytime there is death, there is also pain for many people.
Just this week our church body has experienced another sudden loss. Our retired youth pastor died tragically in an accident. He served for many years, and influenced a huge number of people. I know many people will be in heaven due in large part to his faithfulness to live the gospel. In the aftermath of his passing though, there is much pain throughout our church body and community. This has all caused me to reflect on my experiences last year with my dad’s passing what to do now on the other side of such intimate loss.
In the book of Job, we see a man lose everything except his life. He is a broken defeated man, sitting in the ashes, scraping his skin with shards of pottery seeking relief from the pain of the boils on his body. His wife advised him to curse God and die. I was pondering his 3 friends, who though they made some very notable blunders in how they approached Job, I believe they got one thing right. In Job 3:11-13 we can read the account of their arrival with Job. “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…..They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and to comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
Now their interaction went right downhill as soon as they started speaking, which I understand as it frequently happens when I start speaking as well. However, in looking back at the time after my dad passed, I realized that while I don’t remember a lot of what people said, I remember who was there. I remember the ones that came and sat with me. I remember the man that made a point of going out of his way to spend time with me in preparation for the funeral. He wasn’t there to offer advice, just there.
Then I reflected back on some other broken times in my life. In every case I can remember the ones that “came and sat with”; the ones that looked outside of their own busy lives, and took time to sit and show that they cared.
I have come to believe that some broken things don’t need fixing. The simple act of trying to fix, can cause irreparable harm. Sometimes the best we can offer is ourselves. We are all broken to some degree, but when we sit with another in the midst of grief or trying to deal with their own demons; the simple presence of another person that cares can lessen the burden. The Bible teaches us to weep with those are who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing. I would suggest though that if you, like me, are typically at a loss of what to do when confronted with someone else’s pain, then maybe spend a little time “sitting in the dirt” with the one who is weeping. The Bible also teaches us that where two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, He is there also.
So when you see a hurting person, whether they are hurting from death, or despair, or from losing yet another battle with their own personal demons; maybe next time don’t try to “fix” them. Instead, try “sitting in the dirt” with them. If you have no words, then sit quietly and pray. For the Christian, Jesus is there with you, and He is interceding both on your behalf and for the person you are sitting with. He loves both of you so much that He died for you.