Monday, I walked up to a family friend I’ve known for almost forty years but had not seen in a long time. She had lost everything she owned in the AL tornado. Her son and daughter-in-law had just been killed by the tornado. Their three daughters were still in the hospital. Her other son is still in the hospital in critical condition. She knows I am a pastor. They don’t go to church. I said “Hello,” and the first words out of her mouth were, “Shawn, don’t give me any Christian clichés. I don’t want or need them.” I have never agreed MORE with a statement than that one. “No clichés here,” I said, “Just love.” Would that be OK?” I embraced her and began to cry with her.
When my mom died at the age of forty, countless people filed in our home and by her casket with words like:
“She is in a better place.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“God is still in control.”
I knew what these people were trying to say. They actually didn’t know what to say so it sounded right at the time. However, what I wanted was for someone to say something like, “Shawn, this stinks, and I am as mad as hell, as are you!” (How’s that for honest?) What I wanted was someone to hurt with me, understand me, be on my team, NOT give me easy answers. There’s a time and place for everything. Sometimes, Scripture and counsel are needed. However, when people are at all-time lows, what they need is just someone who will cry with them and AGREE with the injustice they see. I truly believe that’s what Paul was saying to the church when he wrote:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Rom 12:15 (NIV)
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal 6:2 (NIV)
So the next time someone’s hurting and you don’t know what to say, there may be a reason. You might not need to say anything. Just cry with them. Bear their burdens. I know from experience; it means more than a Christian cliché.