As is the case when you blog or put anything out these days there will be people who disagree with you. I received the following email this morning regarding a blog I wrote a while back:
I am a practicing Christian and I love God immensely. I was surfing the web to find out how to come to terms with heart breaking loss and be able to move on a trust God again as my best friend just had a still born baby recently. I have to say, your write up with all due respect has such a lack of feeling because clearly you haven’t been thru heart-breaking loss. God is powerful enough to love us when we are going thru our angry depressed lives. We don’t need people to tell us we are being a brat and making it about ourselves coz God would never ever say that to us. He was so broken by Mary and Martha’s raw emotions when Lazarus died that he broke him back from the dead. If you have not been thru loss and cannot be more deep and thoughtful I. Your advice don’t speak about this subject please. You are not helping people in their grief find God but instead speaking words of hurt and shame on them.
Of course, I responded to this person and shared that I was sorry for her pain and tried to clarify what I was saying. However, her note got me thinking.
Everyone has their own pain and everyone responds to it in a different way.
I struggled understanding this for a long time, especially when I was young. I thought everyone’s pain was relative compared to another’s pain. For example, I may have experienced child abuse, homelessness, and more, but that was nothing compared to my mother who was wasting away in a hospital bed paralyzed with MS. Then I would think the person who was suffering because their boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them had nothing really to complain about – at least they had food and a place to sleep, right?
God was patient with me, however. He showed me that pain is not relative to other people; everyone’s pain is real to them and is not to be judged against your own pain and then categorized in some way.
And God showed me that everyone responds to pain differently. Some people are quite stoic about it; they suck it up and drive on. Others are quite emotional about it and struggle to manage the pain. And still others land somewhere in the middle with a hundred other responses. I tell people that everyone grieves differently over loss and no one way is the right way. Each person must deal with their pain the way that works for them.
I think the key as Christians is twofold – first, trust God. We will have troubles in this life as Jesus said, but we can trust that no matter what we go through God is faithful and our eternity is set. Second, when people hurt show sympathy, compassion and empathy. Try not to do what I used to do, which is judge their pain as being worthy or not against some other standard of pain you think is the threshold to warrant sympathy. All pain hurts even if the pain others are experiencing wouldn’t bother you.
To my reader who wrote the note, I am sorry that my words didn’t resonate with you in the way I intended. I’ll be praying for you that God stands by you as you grieve your friend’s loss and your own pain.