I am going through a wilderness season right now, one of those dark places you don’t know when the light will dawn, or how long the thick woods will conceal the sun. Something about that stripping makes me too raw for cliche, too worn for platitudes.
“It’ll be fine. God will work it out.” But what if He doesn’t?
“Oh don’t worry, it will happen soon.” But it might not! Then what?
“I’m sure it’s nothing.” But what if it’s something?
“God won’t give you more than you can bear.” But that’s a promise about temptation, not about life. It was more than I could bear in France. Far more. I’m sure Job felt what he went through was more than he could bear. Paul recognized it too: “When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.” (2 Corinthians 7:5). Sounds pretty honest–with no rest, plenty of conflict, and a heapload of fear.
I’m pretty sure we throw cliche and platitude when we don’t want to engage with someone else’s pain. (I have done this too). If we stop and listen, or even offer a prayer in the moment, we have to admit that our world is a fallen place, with fallen people doing fallen things. Some would prefer to push away all that nastiness and live as if the world made sense.
But sometimes it doesn’t. I have friends walking difficult journeys that don’t look like a pretty Pinterest quote:
Sometimes your child’s cancer comes back.
Sometimes your spouse passes into the arms of Jesus suddenly.
Sometimes your world upends in a week.
Sometimes you lose a job unexpectedly.
Sometimes that spot comes back from the lab with disquieting news.
And when you find yourself in some of those “sometimes,” the injury or trauma worsens when someone dismisses it, or throws a Jesus juke your way.
So what are we to do when our friend’s life has crumbled?
Sit with your friend. Listen. Offer a prayer. Cry alongside.
Don’t say, “Hey, let me know when you need something” because that means very little to a grieving, distraught person. That person who is in a mental fog has no idea how to even ask for help. Instead, pray, discerning what the friend needs, then meet the need tangibly. Bring a meal. Drop off flowers. Give a gift card. Set up a meals calendar.
I write this to inform myself because I’m sure I’ve said those words. “Let me know if you need something.”
I don’t write this to point the finger at you, but to remind myself of this time when the world spins on a catty-corner axis. Remember this, Mary. Remember how it made you feel when cliches were tossed your way like uninflated life preservers. REMEMBER. Because when my friends face uncertainty, illness, financial stress, catastrophe, I want to offer genuine, in-the-moment help.
All that to say, maybe this time of darkness and pressing is about my sanctification, about making me more empathetic, more tangible in the way I love those who suffer. I hope so. I hope this time will = fruit someday, just my traumatic time in France still reaps spiritual fruit today–thanks to Jesus and to really good friends who offered true, tangible, non-cliche help to this struggling pilgrim.
What about you? What cliches have you heard? When has someone truly helped you walk through pain or grief?