Last week I wrote about my desires for Cities Church not to be frivolous but to be very real about the pain and suffering we all experience in our lives. My prayers are for us to hear the earthquakes of God’s glory and know how much he understands our mourning and lamentation and woe, and for us to live our daily lives in the power of the truth of Jesus risen.
Nancy Guthrie is an author who has written extensively on grief after the loss of two of her children to a terminal genetic condition. She also has written numerous Bible studies to help grieving and non-grieving Christians focus their eyes upon Jesus. Desiring God asked her a question that many people who are around suffering people ask themselves: “What do I say to this person?”
She describes the gifts that can be given to a grieving person in the way we approach and interact with them. Her answer is full of so much love and understanding that I believe it can be useful in all areas of our lives together.
As we desire to reach these cities with the good news of Jesus, we can also give the gift to one another of addressing the hardships we face. It made me think of an image from C.S. Lewis of standing in a dark toolshed. There is a beam of light shining in through a crack in the shed. Lewis stands in the dark and looks at the beam carefully. Then he steps inside of the beam and when he is encompassed by it, he can see outside of the toolshed to the leaves around it and even up to the sun in the sky. When he is outside of the beam he is able to objectively look at the beam and make observations. When he changes position he then experiences the beam from inside and gains a completely different perspective.
Both of these perspectives (observing the beam and entering into the beam) have a place and have value. But when we use this as an illustration for our relationships with other people, there is much value to be said for stepping into the beam of each other’s experience. Nancy speaks of what a gift it is to cry with a grieving person — but not only for those grieving. In all of life’s circumstances and relationships, we can break down barriers between ourselves and other people when we show them that we have the desire to meet them where they are. In doing that we are showing them that Jesus also wants to meet them wherever they are. We don’t have to be afraid. By God’s grace, we can truly weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.