I had a wonderful conversation with someone from EG this week, and we were discussing how many churches (and our denomination specifically) have a hard time comforting and caring for folks when they suffer. He described it in this way.
Most churches do not know how to enter into people’s hurts.
What an incredible statement…and sadly true. We spent the next hour or so discussing the problem. We came up with an analysis, and I hope in this small post to begin to move us towards addressing how poorly churches (including ours at times) enter into grief. In our discussion, church folks typically respond to hurt, harm, and grief in one of three ways.
The Reformed community says: God is sovereign.
The non-Reformed community says: God has a purpose and plan in everything.
And the non-religious response says: It is what it is.
Each one of these is a simplified expression of deeper truths. Unfortunately, they all shut down conversation.
God is sovereign means that we shouldn’t ever dare question what God is doing.
God has a purpose and a plan in everything means that if you wait long enough, either something good will happen or you will figure out what God is trying to teach you.
It is what it is says you aren’t in control of much is this world so why keep talking about it.
I think Evident Grace must be a church that offers more. But what more is there? Well, outside of scripture, we don’t know the mind of God, so assuming on our part or anyone else’s why things are happening is rarely helpful and many times dangerous. So, let me offer a few things that we can do as a church to meet people in their need.
Weep with the weeping – Throwing a party and showing joy when people rightfully have events of joy is great, but we also need to comfort by crying when people cry. So much of grief is the struggle of feeling alone. An appropriate arm of comfort and a shared cry go so much further than empty platitudes.
Be Hospitable – Hospitality is both the opening of our homes to people hurting and the meeting of practical needs to those in need. Hospitality is the meeting of simple needs like clothing, food, and warmth when grief is so great that those needs are neglected.
Neighbor – Neighboring is the constant awareness that you are near to do either of the above two. Neighboring is the offering of one self to another for love and friendship.
While there are other ways to enter grief (feel free to offer some), growing in weeping, showing hospitality, and neighboring communicate care and love to the hurting and represent the love of Christ well.
Christ wept with us and for us.
Christ was hospitable by meeting our need.
Christ was our neighbor because He came to us in our hurt.
Let’s pray God grows this in us more and more, so that at least one person will feel comfort and believe that someone has entered into their grief.