Surviving our blessings

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What if our blessings come from raindrops? What if our healing comes through tears?

We’ve heard it said maybe more times than we care to recall, “all things work for the good…” [Romans 8] yeah, yeah, yeah. “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds…” [James 1]. They sting a little. The place inside me that once held a lot of hope hurts more than I thought imaginable. What do you do when you know these truths intellectually, but not realistically, when you should have joy, but dang it, you just don’t? What happens when you’re just trying to survive your blessings?

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Faith is forced into the open when we’re just trying to survive the things/situations/places/people who are our “blessings“. There’s no pushing through and faking it when you’re too weak, too sick, too lonely, too humiliated, and too spent to thrust another smile on your face or another meal on the table.

Grief wells up, quite literally, it’s a well: deep, unclear, unknown, and changing. The very same things that are supposed to be our blessings, our gifts from God, can be reminders of our greatest areas of grief as well, they can reveal grief afresh, where life is not as it should have been. And we fight to survive the very things given to us as joy.

Grief and joy. They come together. Long after my physical scars have faded, the deeper ones remain sensitive to the touch. These deeper wounds, the ones that can’t be seen and rarely spoke of, came from friendly fire. The people closest to us have the power to hurt us the most.

“Not knowing what to say, they said nothing at all. I tried to empathize, but the silence still hurt. Anyone who loves deep knows the pain of such inflictions. Wounds of the heart happen when you need the gift of someone’s presence most and the person disappears, says something unintentionally hurtful, or lives so self-asbsorbed they barely see you at all. The absence cuts; the silence stings.”

“In life’s most significant moments, our minds become cameras. Every blink captures images of those who cheer when we grasp the diploma, toss rice at the wedding, weep at the funeral. We catalog those present, collect snapshots of those absent too. Standing in front of the mirror, I saw the images of those I counted as betrayers and deniers. I winced as I recoiled the names of members of my inner circle who rushed away at the first sign of trouble. The memories stabbed my soul. Now I was the table host and I didn’t know if I had the strength to feed, water, or wash their feet. Jesus, I want healing for my scars. Help me forgive…. silence, abandonment is it’s own form of betrayal.”

The road to resurrection is paved with disloyalty, buffered by guard rails of isolation, streaked with the skid marks of failing frienships. Most of us have felt the sting of betrayal or the ache of abandonment.

Jesus loved, served, and gave to his friends, until the bitter end. His very life demonstrates that giving to those who hurt and abandon us is loving. We can choose this type of joy, the joy that comes with forgiveness. It’s how we survive our blessings. It’s the only way, the Jesus way.

So those of us who are trying our best to survive right now, caught in the muck of abandonment and hurt and grief, we focus on loving the very others who were unable to love us. And the others of us who are on the other end not knowing what to say to those in grief, to those who know Romans 8 and James 1, but need support to stay in the fight and not “get out prematurely.” Remember, your presence is one of the most meaningful and most powerful things you can offer to someone who is suffering. And there are helpful things you can SAY and DO for us [adapted from Fight Back with Joy]:

  1. Let us know what we are “loved and prayed for today.”
  2. Let us know that your heart aches with us and for us today.
  3. Let us know that you’ve experienced loss and you’re sorry for what we’re going through.
  4. Tell us “You are so loved! What specific thing can I do and/or provide that would help you right now? Let me know and if you don’t have any ideas, I have suggestions.”

And there are things that those facing crisis can’t tell you but wish they could:

  1. Reach out to me: Please don’t walk about me to others, talk to me. Let me know you care and support me. Don’t ask a third party for information or updates about me, ask me. Connect with me. No matter how much time has gone by, your presence matters.
  2. Notice me: If you can listen without trying to fix the situation or me, that’s perfect. Notice my needs. Pay attention to what’s going on and ask.
  3. Do what you say you are going to do: Please don’t offer something that you can’t follow through on. This hurts and can bring numerous challenges in crisis situations. Offer realistic suggestions you can meet. Show up when you say you will.
  4. Ask God how to pray for me: Many people say they will/are praying for me, but somedays that’s hard to believe. Ask if you can pray with me.
  5. Skip cliches: Avoid Bible cliches. Please don’t mention anything about God’s will. These bible quick fixes can bruise rather than bless, hurt rather than heal. Please share passages that were meaningful in your time of suffering prayerfully and with gentleness.
  6. Meet my real needs: ask what they are. Pay attention to the ones I can’t vocalize or am too ashamed to mention. Be sensitive. Sometimes I might not need food or my laundry done. Sometimes I just need a friend, or a night out, or a gift card, or a day that feels normal.
  7. Remember my family: yea, I know it’s confusing to decipher who my relatives are and who my family is. My relatives are people I am biologically related too. My family is my inner circle, the people around me often. They get tired too. They need help and support. Pay attention to them.
  8. Stay with me: Ambulence chasers are a dime a dozen; rebuilders are hard to find. Billows of people appear at the scene of a crisis, but several months later they’re no where to be found. Crisis’ can continue for months, even years.

If you have a meaningful relationship with someone who has experienced great loss, keep letting them know that you love them and you’re still with them. Set reminders if you need. We need one another to survive our blessings.

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