Monday, July 21, 2008

in each others business

Of course each individual is different, but I am amazed at how many people who are mourning or hurting truly long for people to be in their business.

John Piper's daughter-in-law recently wrote about her own experience with losing her daughter only days before she was meant to be born. She longed for people to talk to her about her daughter, ask her questions, give her an opportunity to share what she was feeling. My friend Cil, mentioned to me that some women who find themselves unable to have children feel as if their condition is the elephant in the room. They long for someone to ask them how they are doing, allow them to express their pain. But everyone seems afraid.

So often our culture encourages isolationism, as if we ought to bear each of our burdens ourselves and not bother anyone else about them. If for some reason we cannot cope with our own issues, there must be something wrong with us. But this is so counter to Christian culture. We are family, a body, fellow sojourners. We need each other.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that it is going to be extremely difficult for those so accustomed to isolating their worries to show the care and concern their hurting brothers and sisters need. If you have at one time found yourself in the situation of being hurt and have longed for someone to share the burden with, be the example for others. Show them what it is to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and how to mourn with those who are mourning. Teach them ... US ... by your own example.


Mikey Lynch said...

thanks for your post Stine, I think you've hit the mark.

the difficulty is that there are sometimes people who say things like... "i don't want to go to church because *everybody* will be asking me questions and trying to talk to me..."

so it is hard to get the right balance here. perhaps the middle ground is to give people to opportunity to talk, but to communicate with your words and your manner that they are totally allowed do dodge the subject of their suffering and you'll carry on with another topic without batting an eyelid.

ckjolly said...


Because each person is different it's so difficult to know what they want or need. Those who love those who are hurting cannot read minds. Being open and ready to listen is often the best we can do.

It's a lesson for me that if I ever find myself in such a situation of suffering I need to communicate with others. If I want to talk about it, I should ... without waiting for the other person to bring it up.

I can see how it would be soooo easy to play mental games with myself.

"Oh, I won't talk about it because it may make them feel uncomfortable. So, I'll keep is to myself."

I have to remember that when I am hurting I need to show those who love me HOW I need them to love me. Also, I need to remember that the church LOVES me and that they will not be quick to judge or blame. They want to be loving but many just don't know how to love. I must show them.

Renae said...

So so so true. I think very often people who are suffering really DO know how to tell people about it, and are ready and willing to share, but are surprised that no-one is bold enough to ask them to!

I know of cases where this has happened.. where people have longed to talk to someone about the suffering they are going through, but for one reason or another, no-one offers to listen.. and it probably seems to the sufferer that no one cares.

The problem is, that people care TOO much and are being too CAREFUL.. not wanting, as you said, to overstep the boundaries, and thinking "oh, it must be such a sensitive issue.. I'd better not bring it up in case it's too hard to talk about."

But there's a huge chance that the person who is suffering is just craving someone to share with. It is SO worth taking the risk and asking them if they need to talk.. there is a huge chance that they will say "yes.. finally!!"

kath said...

great post, as always!

i think often we don't offer support simply out of ignorance - we have no idea that somebody is going through a particular trial, or we simply don't realise that it affecting them because they seem to be 'coping'.

another thing to consider is not only the emotional support you can offer someone going through a difficult time, but the physical support as well. some people/churches are great at this - organising casseroles for people who have just had a family member die or had a baby or whatever they might need. it might not be true with crossroads, but with my church it is generally the older generations that are better at both.

The Pook said...

You raise a really important issue in church pastoral care.

The point about mind reading is also pertinent in another context though. When some well known catastrophe like the death of a child has occurred, you can safely assume people are in some kind of ongoing need. It's when nothing spectacular or publicly known has happened that I find it hardest.

Sometimes people can give no outward indication of anything being wrong, even if you are in constant communication with them, and then later blame others, especially the leadership/elders/pastoral team for not knowing there was something wrong that they wanted to share. You can't go around everyone all the time asking "is there anything wrong?" so as mikey says it's really hard to get the balance between being nosey and being involved in a caring way in one another's lives.

fional said...

You've all had such good things to say. I just thought I'd add the reason we find it hard - whether we are suffering or supporting - it's that it's SCARY. It's really scary to ask someone how they're going if they might let you see their extreme pain and anguish. And it's really scary to trust people with your pain and anguish.

So I guess that means we shouldn't feel too bad when we find the whole relating thing hard. But we are family and we are to help carry each others' burdens so we *must try*. And we will get better at it :-)