We have this children’s book called, “Fix it Duck,” about a duck who thinks he’s a handyman. Every situation (disaster) he encounters he says the dreaded line, “This is a job for Fix It Duck!” as he charges forward with the best of intentions while making a complete wreck of whatever he sets out to fix. Poor Fix It Duck. He means well, but people (sheep, goats and frogs to be exact) run for the hills when they see him coming. The last thing they want in the midst of a crisis is Fix It Duck coming in to make matters worse with his “repairs.”
People come to us sometimes – in crisis, hurting, broken in the depths of grief and unspeakably difficult situations. Recently I found the subtle, yet convincing urge to fix rising up in me. As I sat listening to burdens being shared, God led me toward something deeper. We don’t need fixing when we are angry at Him and stuck in a place of perceived hopelessness. We don’t want solutions, quick scripture references or pat answers to resolve our theological conundrums. What we need is space to be where we are without judgment. We need a listening ear and safety to express the real thoughts and feelings balled up in our hearts and minds. We need encouragement, yes, but more than that we need permission to be incomplete, unfinished and hurting without anyone trying to make us “right” or “better.”
I have experienced great losses in life. The pain of my deepest losses continues to occasionally resurface even years later. It doesn’t overshadow the joy and peace I possess. Instead grief sidles up next to my solid center and rides alongside. The cavern of my own mourning has created a capacity for empathy I’m not sure I would otherwise have acquired. It wasn’t always this way. For many years I couldn’t perceive the goodness of God while I was lamenting the pain of something I had lost or had wished for and not obtained.
As I sat with women who are grieving or hurting this week I thought, “Lord, teach me how to better mourn with those who mourn.” Instead of fixing them, I can enter in. He led me by revealing the power of empathy. Empathy says, “yes.” Fixing says, “no.” Think about it. When you are sad and someone tries to snap you out of it, they are essentially saying, “Don’t feel.” They may have the sweetest of motivations, yet their attempt to shut down your anger or sadness sends a message that your emotions need to be turned off. On the other hand, if a person says something like, “It really does stink that you went through that,” or “I understand. I would feel the same way,” or, “You are right to be angry about that” you feel accepted, known and safe. Your feelings are welcome to be processed.
God possesses unfathomable wisdom about how we are wired. His Word instructs us in the way we should go – not just in the outward way to behave, but in the care of souls.
Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn ~ Romans 12:15
The Lord is pressing those words into my heart. It’s so easy to want to push others (or ourselves) forward out of despair into hope. Unfortunately, rushing someone into healing can be like pulling a flower open instead of letting it bloom in due season. On the day you pry and prod, there is immediate beauty, but in the long run there was something essential missed which does damage. I’m becoming increasingly sensitive to this reality. I want to give a wide berth to God and to be with Him and those who hurt in their mourning rather than rushing on to premature and poorly rooted hope. A fine line exists between shedding light into darkness and prodding someone past their emotions into intellect. True hope must be owned in the soul. That is the hope that does not disappoint, and it usually comes by walking the trail of adversity.
God always aims at the eternal and internal. All too often we focus on the temporary and external.
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. and hope does not put us to shame (or disappoint), because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5: 3-5
When we are suffering, the feeling of hope may not be present. This is where the perseverance comes in. Hanging in there, tying a knot, holding our breath, we persevere. It’s not always with gritted teeth, but even a short stroll through Psalms assures us that our suffering is not always a skip-a-dee-doo-dah day. Though we may be at peace and have deep joy during a tough circumstance, we are as likely to feel alienated, abandoned, even physically wracked. Getting to the point of hope is often a process. Discouragement can be consuming, but it isn’t the final word. We hang on through difficulties because below the surface we are held. Nothing can snatch us out of His hand – we can’t even separate ourselves from the love He pours out into our hearts, even when we don’t feel any tangible evidence of that love.
When we are not the one who is suffering (and sometimes even in the midst of our own pain), we are called to be agents of His love into the lives of those who mourn. We stand in the gap, like a conduit or a funnel, allowing Him to pour His love through us into the heart of another. I’m learning that the best way to do this is to be present, listening to God and allowing room for all their emotions, trusting that the One who loves moves between us and is accomplishing His greatest purposes through the trials He allows us to endure. Empathy facilitates a true pathway for genuine healing and hope.
Lord, teach us to mourn with those who mourn.