Although I wrote Here. For You from a Christian perspective, I believe that the essential message I am trying to convey of how to be there for someone is not exactly exclusive. But what fuelled the desire to write the poem in the first place is my sadness at how the Christians around me react to mine and other people’s suffering.
I am upset by the way Christians handle broken people – where “broken people” is synonymous with “people in desperate need of love”. Obviously. Too often, I have seen Christians react in what they probably do think is an appropriate/encouraging way, to people who are suffering.
- Stop talking like that. It’s showing that you don’t trust God enough.
- God is bigger than your problems. (They go further to insinuate that your problems aren’t even problems.)
- Whatever is troubling you is not worthy of affecting a child of God.
- Be strong. You cannot show weakness like this because the strength of God is in you.
And there are variations and more variations!
While I understand the foundation of the statements, I cannot help but think about their ineffectiveness. Suffering Christians likely know their theological truths – but it doesn’t really take away the emotional pain. And I doubt the repetition of what they already know helps, especially when it is delivered in a (possibly unintentionally) condescending manner, which implies that their faith is weak and inadequate because it does not properly and constantly sustain them.
When we respond to suffering people this way, we are essentially telling them to “Dam what you feel” – as if our minds can just tell our hearts to “stop feeling” and the emotion will turn off as if controlled by an electric switch. No.
Sometimes, the best way to be there for someone is to just…be there. (Shout out to that one friend that told me if I ever needed to share my depression pain, I should drop him a message, and he’d drop some emoji in response. Emoji. No Bible verses, no your-faith-is-weak speeches, but graphical emotive response, which is equal to empathy in my head.) Love them. Pray for them, yes, but do not give them another thing to feel inadequate about in their already sad states. Sometimes, all that is needed is someone to talk to, who will shut the eff up and LISTEN. That is all. Sometimes people who fall apart just want to not be alone. It can’t be that hard to understand that humankind needs other humankind for the sake of support. So be that support.
In our saddest times, God can feel very far away – even when we know that He is not. What should we do when this feeling is being experienced by our neighbours? We must display the love of grace and God in us that we know that they need, the same one that we are supposedly trying to direct them towards.
I’d like to believe that the God who created me with emotions will not tell me I have no right to feel or express them. I’d like to believe that if I tell Him anything, he will listen and understand, and has healed me. So what is preventing Christians from emulating the nature of Christ and listening and understanding? Jesus wouldn’t have to be our comforter if we were always strong enough to never need comfort. There are times when we absolutely need to fall apart.
Here’s an extract from a Relevant Magazine article I really identified with. It’s not on exactly the same subject, but it’s…relevant. LOL, see what I did there?
“One of my favorite anxiety moments in the Bible is found in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah is so overwhelmed by his circumstances that he wants to end his life. In that moment, God didn’t give him a pep talk or shame him for his lack of faith. Instead, He gave him a meal and let him go to sleep. Twice.”
All I seek to do is to show people that there is nothing wrong with them for falling apart on occasion; that being stoically self-destructive is not healthy. I want to be the safe haven that displays the loving, understanding grace that I receive. And for goodness’ sake, try to stifle people.
The knee-jerk inclination to provide theological iterations and dispel theological misconceptions (that you are presuming others have must be checked, for a person cannot adequately be helped until they are listened to and understood FIRST. And as for your actions – display before you say. Please. Consciously and unconsciously, we have to stop driving people away.