Vale of TearsWeeping with those who weep
Weeping with those who weep
Others heard my groans,
but no one turned to comfort me.
The ultimate test of how much we care for someone is whether we can rejoice when they are rejoicing, and weep when they are weeping.5 This is more profound than it may sound, for some of us really only come alive when others are weak, but feel redundant – resentful even – if they are doing well.
We cannot fail to be a blessing if we are prepared to weep when others are weeping – provided only that we are not doing this primarily in order to meet our own emotional needs. The last thing we should ever seek to do is to take advantage of their weakness to make us feel superior.
Those of us who are in ministry may need to take extra care in this regard. We may need to guard ourselves against getting so emotionally involved that it affects our judgement. Loving gestures, offered with no sexual intention, can likewise risk being misunderstood. As always, such relationships benefit from appropriate covering and accountability. It is wise to be especially careful when dealing with griefs that remind us of losses that we ourselves have experienced and which we may not have fully recovered from.
There is no shame or stigma in referring a person for more specialized help than we are able to provide. It is all part of the body of Christ functioning as it should. Someone else may have just the right mixture of skills and experience to reach them.
Unlike the volunteers who staff the Samaritans and other emergency help lines, I am fortunate in that I often get to hear the follow-up to people’s stories, whereas they have the difficult and challenging task of drawing out people’s hurts and woundings without discovering the outcome.6
Volunteers have an important part to play in providing emergency care, and are trained not to inspire false hopes. Phrases such as “I’m sure these tests will come back negative,” or, “Your child is sure to come home soon,” should never be used lightly.7
Wisdom often lies in mirroring back to the person the things that they have said, and leaving it to their own conscience, and the Holy Spirit, to do any work of convicting that is called for.
Because people often hold out against the Holy Spirit’s prompting, however, knowing when to make more proactive suggestions can be a highly sensitive matter. Pray before speaking for them to be willing to face issues head-on.
When people respond with anger to your best efforts to reach out to them, pray for grace to know when to keep trying to come close, when to respect their need for distance, and when to encourage them to seek out the real reasons for their reactions. If people appear prickly, rejecting things that deep down we sense they would want to embrace, it is often because they are reacting to hurts which have lodged in the core of their being. For their long-term well-being it may well be wise to encourage them to seek appropriate help.
Reflect and Pray
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind, I may not lead.
Walk beside me, and just be my friend.
Attributed to Albert Camus
Lord, guide and inspire each one of us
who find ourselves in any way “on the end of a line.”
Direct the words we say the truths we impart
and the prayers we pray.
Accomplish much through every contact –
and use us to catch people in time.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
5 Romans 12:15
6 For an introduction to reflective listening, see http://www.drnadig.com/listening.htm
7 Much of the work that volunteers do involves passing people on to others. It is sometimes a kindness not to hand out the referral information too quickly, as this can leave the person feeling as though they were not important enough to merit spending time with individually.