The unfolding tragedy of this world is mind numbing.
As the Christian is faced with brutality piled upon the unspeakable he often feels helpless. What shall we do when the cancer diagnosis comes, or perhaps more importantly: what do we do after years of unsuccessful treatment? What shall we do to comfort our sister facing the unspeakable tragedy of being married to an unrepentant covenant breaker?
In the song entitled “Plowed” the rock band Sponge describes a “world of human wreckage”.
What shall we do in this “world of human wreckage”?
Here are three perfect suggestions our imperfection will mess up. They’re still worth trying, for it is the fear of doing the wrong thing that allows God’s faithful sufferers to suffer alone.
1. Let Love Be Without Hypocrisy.
The Apostle Paul writes in His letter to the Romans, “Let Love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9 NASB
When people go through searing loss they need to be reminded to “cling to what is good”.
A sermonette may not be the best tool in your tool chest to remind the beloved sufferer of God’s goodness.
After all, the Apostle John reminds us, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” ~ 1 John 3:18 NASB.
As my Resplendent Bride has journeyed through cancer she has had to give up her independence in various areas of her life. This has not been easy for such a “go getter” as her, but that is a different article for a different time. I have the honor of doing many more domestic activities than ever.
As her covenant husband I am only far too happy to be a caretaker.
The problem is: As “The West Wing” episode “Isaac & Ishmael” put it “You have the memory of a gypsy moth”.
It’s true, I do.
Let me tell you about the infamous package.
My Resplendent Bride cannot drive due to the weakness caused by cancer. One fine day she wanted me to take a package to the post office, get postage, and mail it.
It sat by the door, day after day.
I just kept forgetting to mail the thing.
I like to think of myself as the absent minded professor type, but such a self assessment is helped by rose coloured glasses.
Truth is: we remember that which is important to us.
In order for my love to be the kind of love that is without hypocrisy and thereby have the effect of causing my Resplendent Bride to cling to that which is good: my love had to be manifested by action.
So it was that one evening upon discovering to my chagrin that I had forgotten the package yet again, I placed the package in my truck so that I would remember to mail it.
Saying “I’ll do that tomorrow” is not love if tomorrow never comes.
Loving action can help ease the load of our beloved sufferers.
That being said, sometimes people need words…
2. Rejoice & Mourn as needed.
The apostle Paul keeps the greatest hits coming in Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” NASB
This verse is typically incarnated as such:
“Professor Frank had finally decapitated his favorite stuffed cat toy. He was really tore up about it. So, I took him out for pizza & coffee (Am I messing up the comfort food combo in this scenario? Let’s go with it.) We just sat there for hours chasing down pepperoni triangles with boiling hot coffee: not saying a word.
Surely as people of insurmountable class and intelligence we can make room for the notion that different people are comforted in different ways.
As for me, if I’m going to self medicate with pizza I’d rather do so alone at my house and let my good friend Netflix say nothing (of value) to me for hours upon hours.
But if you make me leave my self pity nest for the purpose of staring at me for hours while you stuff your pie hole with pizza pie (in Italian: stuff your pie hole with pie pie) all in the name of “mourning with the mourning”, I’ll not be a happy camper.
I’ve run into the Christian now and again who doesn’t want be comforted with God’s Word because they feel they know it all, and that is after all, “preachy”.
I am a preacher, but that’s a different article for a different day.
When I’m down and out I want to be reminded of that which I already know. Turn my eyes to eternity. Turn my eyes to Christ, and when I close my eyes in self pity: make me look.
People are different, of course.
While you mourn with the mourning consider the possibility that they want you to tell them that which they already know. As Dr. Mohler might say, “Don’t just stand there, say something.”
And, save that last slice of pizza for me.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:13 “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” NASB.
In all honest bluntness: tragedy often takes a financial toll that is inextricably tangled with the emotional and spiritual.
Premiums, gas money, co-pays, funeral costs, counseling, finding a new place to live… it all adds up.
In a world of human wreckage, nothing can be more practical than a small gift.
Gifts serve their purpose in meeting practical needs, as well as making one smile.
A smile is priceless.
As my Resplendent Bride has endured cancer our family has received gifts. People have fundraised. People have fixed our vehicles. People have worn bracelets to remind them to be in prayer. People have sent care packages. People have called. People have cleaned. People have watched our motley mutt, Professor Frank.
These are powerful things “in a world of human wreckage”, and these are some things that we can do.