Originally published August 26, 2016
I was driving down the road one day last week, if sitting through three red light cycles per intersection due to horrendous traffic could rightfully be called “driving,” that is. Hot and sweaty, filthy, emotionally drained, and exhausted from cleaning and hauling, I was making my way from my best friend’s flooded house to help out at my ninety-five year old grandmother’s flooded house, guilt-stricken that I couldn’t be in both places at once.
And that’s when I heard it.
I was listening to one of my favorite theological podcasts, and when the host began talking about the flooding in Baton Rouge, my ears perked up. He began talking about God’s sovereignty- that, because God always does what is best for believers – for our discipline, growth in holiness, increased dependence on Christ, and the like – that this flood was good for us. He said it kindly, lovingly, and backed up with Scripture. And he was absolutely right.
Yet, three days after a life-altering catastrophe, with a heart still raw and broken for my loved ones and my community, it was exactly what I did not need to hear.
It’s crucial to bring good theology to bear on every situation we face in life. We need to apply Scripture to the situations we go through in order to help us make biblical sense of things, walk obediently, give thanks, and glorify God.
And yet, the Bible doesn’t say, “Give a theology lecture to those who weep.” It says, “Weep with those who weep.” Why? God is all about the Word, isn’t He? Why wouldn’t He want us to jump right in and exhort hurting people with scriptural principles?
Because He knows us. He created us.
People need a minute to take a breath and absorb everything that has happened to them before their hearts and minds are ready to transition into thinking theologically about the situation.
Sometimes we just need to sit and cry for a while. And maybe we need someone we love to sit and cry with us. No Romans 8:28. No talk about how God is going to use this to grow us. No discussion of whether God “caused” or “allowed” this tragedy. Just some time to grieve without having to think. And God’s word says that’s OK.
Even Job’s companions, poor theologians though they were, got this part right:
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
But sometimes, even with the best of intentions, maybe without even realizing it, we skip the vital step of making an appointment to sympathize with and comfort our suffering loved ones. We neglect to rend our hearts and sit on the ground and weep with those who mourn. We fail to see that their suffering is very great. And yet this is one of the very ministries Christ calls us to.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
A time to discuss theology, and a time to weep with those who weep.
8 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday ~ Weeping with Those Who Weep”
I wish I knew how many times I have said that people don’t need to hear Romans 8:28 right after a tragic event in their lives. Therapeutic presence can be the best gift we give them. Thanks for putting all of these thoughts together so well.
Thanks, Gayle. This experience really shaped how I now reach out to those who are grieving.
I understand where this is coming from, but there seems to be an abundance of small faith and more Christians crying out questioning God. When people ask the questions, they should be answered confidently and in love, not accusatory. Reassurance that God is in total control should help build up the weak. I have a peace beyond understanding knowing that absolutely nothing happens outside of the authority and purposes of our God.
I agree with you, Paula. This article is really more about unsolicited theology lectures :0)
Good article again Michelle. To Paula, there are some who are not as far along in their sanctification, so there may smaller faith and questioning. I’ve been a Christian for many years and I, myself, have sinfully questioned why something has happened.
Another thing, Michelle, is that well-meaning folks will often try to apply “theology” and quote verses that they have interpreted wrong or paraphrased to try to be helpful. We have to try to not get offended and to ask the Lord for more patience!
Your words are so true. After my husband passed away, many well-meaning Chrisitan friends cited verses that were very true, but I was not able to hear them yet. Some of them just came up and gave me a silent hug or let me weep without making me feel it was a sin to weep. Sometimes good, solid, comfortable, available shoulders and a pair of weeping eyes are the best thing we can provide to a hurting Chrisitan friend.
So sorry for your loss Carol. Thanks for sharing this.