I listened to a friend on Sunday. She shared about a season in her life when the world tipped itself over and dumped her out. Everything fell apart. Everything she thought she knew flipped upside down. The friends they thought they had walked away. And she was left alone to gather the pieces. She said many compared her and her family’s story to Job. It wasn’t funny and it was hurtful. And the air wooshed out of my lungs because I had been one of the ones who thought that, and even spoke it aloud.
I said it in light of the whole story in mind–the redemption and restoration and I was excited to see the fruit of all of God’s promises. But to her in that moment, in sackcloth and ashes, what she needed was a friend to sit and mourn with her. Not someone to preach at her or spiritualize her suffering. Not someone to package all the threads neatly together when she felt abandoned and forgotten by God. She needed freedom to wrestle through the doubt and the anger and the questions. Not for me to stand on platitudes when the world was crashing around her. I was too excited for the end of the story when she was stuck right in the midst of the deepest pain and grief she had ever experienced.
It reminds me of a scene from Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Sam are by themselves and at the darkest moment of their journey. They talk about how people don’t know they’re in the midst of an adventure when it’s happening to them. Sam says he used to think people went out and looked for these adventures, but now he sees that people just ended up in them–and that people don’t know whether it’s a happy or a sad ending. Frodo and Sam have no idea how their story will end, nor would it be a comfort to them in this dark moment to know because right now they have to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get to the top of Mordor to destroy the ring.
And that’s where my friend was. This was her life–not some epic adventure or story. After the earth crashed around her she had to bend down and pick up the pieces and rebuild a life out of the ashes. And instead of being with her in it, I was focused on the ending. Instead of seeing the breadth and depth of her pain, I saw the bright happy future that I envisioned for her. I couldn’t be there with her because all I could see was what I thought God had promised her. But I have no idea how he works, or how her story will end, or where her life will take her.
So four years later, and with a dose of humility I am gently convicted.
Mourn with those who mourn. I’ll take it even further–comfort those who are mourning.
It was not my job to declare more truth to her, or to help her find hope and peace. What I should have done was to wrap my arms around her and be with her in her agony. Sure, I can point out the window and say the sun is shining, but it’s my arms around her, sitting in her grief and not asking her to pretty it up, and my eyes filling with tears for her pain that speaks more of the love and comfort of God than any words about his faithfulness I could speak.
People are on their own path and their own journey. God is an individual God and he meets us individually. Forcing our thoughts about him on to others just gets in the way and can actually become a block to them finding him. We have to trust the God who made us more. He’s got this. We also have to trust people more, that as they press into him he will lead them to where he has called them. Sort of a “not all who wander are lost” mentality.
So, my dear sweet friend, I am sorry that I couldn’t be with you because I was too focused on the ending. And instead of comforting you, I held you up as this epic adventure rather than seeing you as a person who was grieving. Thank you for always teaching me, and for being gracious with me in my ignorance. I love you.