1.12.2011

Whatever You Do, Don't Do This

We've all known people who have had to say good-bye to a loved one too early, or have to endure some great hardship. What about the spouse who is, with almost no hope otherwise, doing everything to save a failing marriage?  Who do we know with life-altering medical conditions?  How do we respond to those situations? I wonder if most of us are not ready to.


The Two No-Nos
Somehow we've been trained, insufficiently trained, to respond in two ways that bother me.  First, we try to rationalize the situation for the other person(s). We feel like we must offer words of wisdom or some sort of explanation. I imagine there are a number of reasons we would want to do that; some of them may not be as noble as we think.  Still, I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think most of us do either. It seems more like a defense mechanism when we are quick with the, “Well, God meant for this to happen…”

What about when we say, “I’ll be praying for you.” I hope the only reason you would say that is because you will actually fulfill the promise. And, if you are, do you know what you are praying for?  A cure?  Total recovery?  Peace? Fulfillment?  There may be obvious prayer concerns, but not always. 

What Can We Do
Something I think people need more of is a person who will really tough this out with them. You don’t have to have answers. Answers and the time to find/give them will come. Someone suffering through a difficult time does not need another person to say, “If you need anything call me.” They won’t call. Maybe that’s wrong, but they won’t. Perhaps some of us are hoping they won’t and will just accept our puny offer as a sign of our condolence.

What that person needs is someone to say, “I’m calling; what do you need?” That call happens not only during the circumstance, but even after all the attention has faded and everyone else has gone back to their normal routines. The NRSV translates James 1:27 like this:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Other translations use the word visit. Obviously, visiting is important. The charge to “care for,” however, communicates more of a process. Care comes in many different forms. Caring for someone might entail calling, bringing food, checking the mail or offering a crying shoulder, just to name a few examples. It is also something that continues.If prayer is part of your care, make sure to ask the person what they want you to pray for.

Who do you need to follow up on? Are the names on a church prayer list being prayed for?  How can our churches make sure “to care for” each other more intentionally? Stay blessed…john

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