What do we say to someone who has suffered great loss?
How can we adequately express the deep sorrow that we feel for someone when they are in mourning?
I recently had the privilege of hearing someone speak at a Memorial Service and they said something like this…
“What if we all acted like sponges. When those around us are hurting, we sit close and absorb some of their burdens for them”
That may not sound like a very welcoming invitation, but it has stuck with me.
God’s word says to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn”.
Merriam Webster says this…
Definition of mourn
1. to feel or express grief or sorrow
I love that mourning is a verb. A feeling that can be expressed and the expression doesn’t have to be with words. We don’t even have to speak.
We can grieve over many things:
- A marriage that is ending
- A healthy body that has now been diagnosed with an illness
- The loss of a dream
- Failure of a business
- Death of a loved one
- A wayward child
- A close friendship that is ending
- A broken heart
Here’s where the sponge comes in.
When a loved one is hurting and we lean in and allow ourselves to feel what they feel, we become spongy…absorbent.
When someone is shedding tears we can slide right over and absorb some of that sorrow with them. And when they are rejoicing we get to soak up some of that exhileration that they are feeling too.
What happens when a sponge takes on water? It comes to life!
When we allow God to use us, He brings life into our bones. Like a sponge that puffs out and becomes soft and pleasant to hold on to, we too become a soft place for others to lean in to and we are smack in the middle of where God is working.
This is one way that we help to carry one another’s burdens.
When we become spongy:
- We help soak up some of the sadness in the lives of others and remove it so that they aren’t wading in it from the ankles to their knees, to their waist.
- Like a sponge, we come to life. As a dry, porous material crashes into wet tears of sorrow, we expand. Our capacity to take on and take in grief and sadness grows as we become agents of God’s sustaining grace.
Many times when someone near us is going through something hard, it’s easy to become a little gun shy. To back up and let someone else comfort them. What would I say? How can I help?
Just. Show. Up.
It’s okay to not have the right words or not have any words at all. Slide along side that friend and wrap your arm around them. Cry and snot and shake with them. Hold their hand. Serve them a glass of cold water. Fold their laundry. These are all verbs and they do not require words.
God’s word says…
“God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!”
Perhaps God wants to use you to help bring comfort to someone.
Your presence is enough. It is a gift to those who need help absorbing all that has them wrecked.
We don’t ask people if they would like to receive a gift, we simply give it.
Don’t let your nerves keep you from moving on this. If God has put someone on your heart who is grieving something, go to them. Just show up.
Those are sacred tears they are shedding and you will have the privilege of soaking up some of that grief. It will bring you to life. It will bring nourishment to your bones and you will be glad you moved.
May we all strive to be more pourous. More pliable. Absorbers.
Agents of grace.
I’m working on this myself and praying that we all step out when necessary.
Challenge: Is someone in your life grieving and you just don’t know what to do? Invite them for a walk or take them a meal. Watch what happens when we slide over close.
2 thoughts on “When Sitting Shoulder to Shoulder is All You Can Do”
I like the sponge analogy when dealing with other’s grief and especially to “just show up.” I would always feel uncomfortable when trying to help a friend who lost a loved one and could never truly comprehend the importance of someone being there for you until I lost my dad a couple of years ago. Very good friends of mine just did not know what to say so avoided talking to me about it. The only reason why I understood why there did that was because I used to be the same way.
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Your experience is pretty common Tricia. I think our enemy likes us feeling anxious about being present during difficult times because he knows that our Father wants us to draw together and console one another. We need to encourage one another and “just show up”.
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