Loss-child

Comfort

When friends are grieving, it is hard to know what to do or not to do. Even if you have grieved before.

Job lost almost everything. Eliphaz and Bildad (Job’s friends) wisely started by sitting silently with their friend for seven days. They gave Job credit for being wise and helping others before his losses hit his life.

However, they, then, resorted to accusing him of not fearing God (15:4), being prideful (15:9) and even mocked his pain and the sounds of his trauma (15:20-21). They did not let him be honest and real in his grief.

The most damaging part: They wrongly believed that all blessings were caused by obedience and tragedy was caused by sin. Thus, they failed to hear Job and lacked empathy. 

A third friend emerged and attacked Job on a new level. Zophar accused him of being guilty and unrepentant. He told Job that he should have had wisdom and to devote his heart to God, to pray for forgiveness, and to put sin far away. 

Interestingly, even though Zophar was wrong about Job, there was truth about sin in what he said: if there is sin, changing is the correct answer. Stop what we are doing, examine our hearts, go before God, identify and turn away from sin, and recognize patterns to try to grow.

In fact, Psalm 51 is a good guide for repentance. David had sinned with Bathsheba and we see his remorse. He appealed to God’s mercy (v. 1-2), he did not make excuses for his sinful behavior (v. 3-4), his desires changed and he wanted purity in thought and deed (v. 6), and lastly this led to praising God for the freedom he experienced after confessing (v. 14-17). When we confess, we can repent without regret, earnestly and eagerly clearing ourselves, hating the sin, longing for restoration and desiring justice (2 Cor. 7:9-11). Repentance is a good thing.

The problem was: Job’s problems were not due to sin. Job is the ultimate example of dramatic irony. The reader knows something that the characters do not and we know that Job’s sin did not cause his losses, but his friends did not know this. And, this is life. Sometimes tragedies are due to sin, sometimes not.

So, we need to be careful as friends, seeking much discernment: being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”(Matt. 10:16). But, the insightful friend looks at 1 Thess. 5:14 (And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all) and asks: is a person dealing with sin or are they fainthearted and weak? If fainthearted and weak: comfort, help, encourage, be patient.

Humble people have shared their stories and failures and hardships to comfort and encourage me and have listened for hours on end. This vulnerability has brought tremendous help.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-A. Tikhonova

Loss-child

Not the Same

“We are not the same people.”

“I know.”

I cannot count the number of times that my husband has whispered this to me.

On the outside, a grieving person looks like the same person. They walk around and seem like the same person. But, on the inside, something has changed.

If you have ever read 1984, in the last chapter, Julia and Winston meet after betraying one another. They have both been drastically tortured. Winston notices changes in Julia-her face is sallow, a scar, and that her waist is thick and stiff. Physically and emotionally there were changes. Now, when they see each other, they are numb: “Something was killed in your breast: burnt out, cauterized out.”

There may be hidden physical and emotional changes. The griever may have not slept for days, weeks, or even months through the night. They may have experienced PTSD-flashbacks to the events preceding their loved one’s death. Recurring thoughts about what they could have done differently. 

In the movie and true story, Born on the Fourth of July, in the midst of chaos, as a squad leader in Vietnam, Ron Kovic accidentally killed a fellow soldier, Billy Wilson, a 19-year old in his squadron. The guilt tore him up. He suffered with PTSD and the reality of paralysis. He broke down with his parents–unleashing the enormous anger inside. The anger at himself, anger at God, anger at anyone around him, anger at the government, anger at his circumstances. He looked for relief from the anger and guilt and shame in drugs, alcohol, sex, and a new place. 

But, one day, he decided to face Billy Wilson’s family and sought forgiveness and truth. After Ron explained how he believed that he was the one who killed Billy, Billy’s mom comforted, “We understand the pain you’ve been going through.” One sufferer comforting another sufferer. She lost her son: she understood pain. Ron suffered with guilt; she released him. 

Ron was not the same person coming back from Vietnam. Grievers are not the same people. They may look the same, but they have been through sometimes unspeakable journeys. They don’t want pity, but it’s good to try to understand the depth, even if you never talk about it. Sometimes it is just your presence.

They are asking: who am I now? It takes time to figure out new identity, but there are answers. There is hope. 


Meanwhile, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

Contributor-L. Vincent