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People professing faith often fail those in grief

I am Christian. I have been a Christian all my life. But there are some things Christians do that disturb people who profess a faith, or who don't profess faith of any kind, and frankly, it bothers me too.

When some Christians don't know what words to say to comfort a person or offer solace, "We" tend to share a reference in the Bible about faith, usually an implied or overt statement that the person suffering needs more faith, doesn't have any faith, or lost their faith. Or, a generic statement, something like this "You are hurting now. But God is in control and has a plan for your life."

While that statement intrinsically makes sense and I don't dispute it, it's not helpful during a painful loss. I KNOW God has a plan for me. Of course, He wants to make us more like Him, but right now I’m hurting, please do not give me some overused, simplified statement cloaked in biblical teaching.

How about going out on a limb and say “I don’t know what to tell you because I feel awkward and uncomfortable that you are hurting so much, I don’t know what to do or say. And I know that I may have to endure pain at some time like you are going through. I don’t know how to handle it.”

There you have it! That honest, transparent statement that you don’t know what to say while I’m hurting is perfect, for me! I don’t know what to do with my pain, I don’t expect you to know either.

We live in a culture that, including Christian, doesn’t know how to handle grief. Oh, we can talk about death and eternal life till the cows come home, but I dare say most of us in the church are ill-prepared to speak to the grieving widow, the parent who just lost a child or a spouse who has been cheated on. Those issues make us uncomfortable because we know it will or can happen to us at any time! So, we either offer a token saying, or we walk away and avoid the person when all we really need to do is provide a hug, or quietly sit next to them and say nothing while they are in anguish.

“This will pass” or “God knows how you feel” and in particular, “I don’t know how I would handle a loss if I had to go through what you are enduring, I don’t know how you do it” add vinegar to the open wound.

Just silence, your presence, an invitation to lunch, breakfast, or even an attempt at a bad joke is better than cliched Christian biblical philosophy. Our partner died, we didn't. Don't treat us like a leper.

I would love to hear a pastor at the pulpit some morning say this;

"Mr. (Or Ms.) Jones lost their child the other day to cancer. That plain sucks and life can really stink. Sometimes it doesn't make sense when bad things happen to good people, and evil people live and succeed. Go hug those people who are hurting so much, just ask to hold them as they suffer."

(A much-paraphrased message from Ecclesiastes)

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Comment by Callie2 on August 24, 2018 at 9:05am

Are you assuming that all Christians are compassionate? That’s almost like saying all Christians are honest, but let me tell you they are not. People are people and we may all try to do well but sometimes we have to experience these things ourselves in order to truly understand.

Some may feel quoting a Bible verse shows compassion or caring, but does it really? That’s about on the same level as “call me if there’s anything I can do, blah, blah, blah”. I don’t want to be critical of any group or religion but showing someone you care ( if you really do) through one small act of kindness will be appreciated and always remembered. Sending food, short visits or even brief phone calls are memorable. Simply letting them know they will be included in your prayers is thoughtful.

We need to experience certain types of pain sometimes in order to relate. Sometimes clumsy attempts at condolences are because someone hasn’t experienced such a loss, but many of us will during our lifetime. If we can all be a little less critical of each other and a little more understanding, that’s at least a step in the right direction. I refer to all humans whether we are spiritual, religious, or atheist.

Comment by SweetMelissa2007 on August 23, 2018 at 1:43pm

BTW, Bob's service was Catholic, I believe everyone was behaving according to it being a religious ceremony ...

Comment by SweetMelissa2007 on August 23, 2018 at 8:10am

(((HUGS Soulmate)))

During my 70,028 darkest hours - 7 1/2 years, commonly used religious sayings, quotes & proverbs took on a different feeling & meaning attributed to the mental anguish, painful physical grief & anger from loss. I can attest to wanting to run around screaming my head off from it all sounding like knife piercing platitudes. Things begin to look different when the anger is tamed & eventually resolved; clarity comes forth ...
I truly think many believe their chosen words are of comfort as well as a means to providing support in continuing one's faith for the tests & challenges up ahead. I noticed some people had no words of their own when looking to others, then repeating them thinking it was proper funeral etiquette. That was okay - maybe or whatever - who knows, it certainly wasn't me that knew much of anything except anger. It was the best they could do even though I thought they could have done better being that I was some how thinking I should be expecting more(?) from them, but what. Truly I just wanted to say "F" off - "F" this, that & the other, I just want to run away. I didn't even know myself or what I wanted of if I wanted to be alive. All I knew was I wanted Bobnoxious to be alive - back home w/us getting on my nerves w/his incessant talking & leaving a trail of stuff behind him like a slug, merrily playing w/our kids & his friends, tooling around the garage or fondling everything at Home Depot, toe touching & kissing in bed instead of this "dead " crapola - nope!
The only way to change this is to teach your family &/or friends what you think the grieving might find acceptable even though it can still be a tough call. Some do like to be reminded of their faith. For myself, I did not want or like being touched nor did I want to go to lunch or invited out or look at anyone or listen to any voices - jokes, BS or otherwise. I desperately wanted to left alone, but didn't. There simply was no amount of delicacy implored or could have ever been found to comfort me. I didn't know myself or what I needed/wanted. Everyone was left to guess at how best to handle me. And they sincerely tried. It was gut wrenching for many, but I didn't know about it till years later when I invited them back into my life to talk about it. I was completely blinded to their sympathy & empathy ...
My huge family in having experienced every type of death commonly say, "My condolences, I'm praying for you" or "I'm so sorry, I love you" in various combinations or similar words. As harmless & supportive as these words seem they still made my hair catch on fire. My sensitivities were at an all time high making them sound repetitive & insincere even though I knew deep down they were heartfelt. Shock was the shield in protecting me from insanity at the reality of Bob's sudden death as well as attending his funeral. Yup, I was completely unhinged & crazy - the death of a loved one does this to a great many people as witnessed in-person or any grief board ...
There was absolutely nothing that made me happy, I could smile momentarily albeit ravaged inside. I expected some anger from having watched my Mother experience widowhood twice. However, I had never once thought it would be driven & consuming rage encompassing everyone, everything, at the world in every direction instead of just the one person who caused Bob's death. My wrath was irrational to everyone else; it was what happened to me as well as forced me to confront dark emotions of a horrific level I had never before experienced. I had no idea or knowledge of what to do or how to calm the fury running through my veins. All I could do early on was release it in solitude (the walk-in closet away from the kids) to get it out of my system to prevent imploding/exploding to clear the way to learn how to cope with in time. It eventually lead me back to my faith which, for some odd reason, I had forgotten to look at. The part I hated the most was it being all up to me to find my way - the heavy burden of responsibilty - finding what I needed to keep functioning day after day, week after week, year after year. Arrgh! I felt cheated - no one else had to do this (I thought even in being on a widowboard) - life was unfair to me & my kids b/c of a stupid road raged driver ...
After 11 years, what I can say now is the memories are still w/me albeit exact details can be shady, however, all has been resolved, pain & suffering no longer exist. My grief was complicated as well as traumatic from Bob's violent death, however, I sincerely believe he died in peace in only the way my faith could have shown me from the long years of study until it resonated to accept it's truth in its entirety ...
"Do what you need to do to find your way" ...
Blessings ...

My song in short cutting anger & rebelliousness to look toward my faith ...

"Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key
But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home"

- By Blindfaith (Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker & Rio Grech) ...

Comment by Rainy (Misty) on August 22, 2018 at 4:32pm

Bravo!!!  Very well said soulmate!

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