Group life allows us to enter into relationships that extend beyond a weekly meeting. As those relationships grow, we are near people during the best and worst times of life.
Paul advised the church in Rome to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). This short exhortation invites us into an entire spectrum of life experiences. Through the good and bad we share in the type of mutual encouragement Paul mentioned earlier in Romans (see 1:11-12). Over the past several years, my wife and I have been the beneficiaries of our small group seeking to obey Paul’s command.
Four and a half years ago, our small group rejoiced with us as we welcomed a baby girl into our family. Our hospital room became a revolving door of visitors. The window sill filled with flowers. Our family came home to a clean house and a fully stocked refrigerator. Meals came by the dozens. We didn’t buy groceries for weeks. Our people rejoiced with us.
Fast-forward a couple more years, we received the same kind of love and generosity from our group for an entirely different reason.
I still remember sitting in down with the guys in my group and taking about how excited we all were to have our second kids. It was January and all the husbands were hoping to get that second kid and all the attending medical bills into one deductible year. While all our friends went on to have their second child, my wife and I experienced three consecutive miscarriages.
The people who rejoiced with us now wept with us. Three more times, the meals, the tears, the flowers, and the prayers came.
Reading Paul’s words, no one wants to be the person weeping. Yet, part of what my wife and I prayed when we found out we were pregnant after a second miscarriage is that God would allow whatever happened to us to be used by Him. So, in that vein, here are a few lessons we’ve learned about how to weep with those who weep.
Our natural (and well-intended) response to tragedy is often to ask “what can I do?” People walking through hurt find it difficult to answer this question in the moment. A friend of mine whose wife was battling breast cancer put it this way, “I don’t know what I need, but when I need it, I’ll need it right then.” Instead of finding a concrete way to help, be present and willing to do whatever is needed when called upon.
- Simply being present goes a long way.
- Send a text or leave a voicemail without expecting a reply.
- Drop a card in the mailbox.
- Leave a care package by the front door.
Because our friends made their presence known, we knew we could call upon them when we needed a meal or someone to hang out with our daughter for a few hours. We knew our friends would drop everything at a moments notice to be there for us, to allow us to vent, to cry with us, or simply listen to us and say nothing at all.
Listen More than You Speak
When tragedy befell Job, Scripture tells us “when Job’s three friends […} heard about all this adversity that had happened to him, each of them came from his home. They met together to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. … Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense.” (2:11,13) In coming and sitting with Job, they did the right thing. The trouble didn’t begin until they started speaking.
When our doctor told us that we miscarried, he prayed for us and specifically asked that God protect us from the unhelpful things people were going to say. Well-meaning friends will say unhelpful things. Job’s friends did not intend to hurt or frustrate him. They just misunderstood what Job needed. Instead of giving unsolicited advice or encouragement to your grieving friends, offer support and a listening ear. Don’t be afraid of their pain and be willing to hear it when they want to speak it. A listening ear is a great encouragement to a suffering friend.
Know that Your Faith Sustains their Faith
Walking through three consecutive pregnancy losses tested our faith in ways that we couldn’t have imagined. To be honest, it is still testing our faith. Yet, even in our worst days, the goodness of God’s people sustained our faith. We saw Jesus so clearly through the care and attention of His church.
Our friends sacrificed for us, prayed for us, and gave to us. Our loss, particularly the third miscarriage, knocked us completely off balance. As we tried to regain equilibrium, God’s people became a ballast of assurance to us. We knew Jesus cared about us because they cared about us.
Walking with people through pain and suffering requires much from you. Weeping with those who weep will cost you tears. Getting close to pain and ugliness is difficult, but that is what Jesus did for us. He entered into our brokenness, was present with us, listened to us, and told us to cast our burdens on Him when we’re weary and heavy laden.
Group life means embracing the good and the bad shoulder to shoulder with other people. Weeping with those who weep is not easy, but it is worth it. When the people in your community hurt, go to them and show them the same kind of love and acceptance that you’ve received from Jesus. He laid down His life for His friends. We must do the same in celebration and in mourning.
Reid Patton is a Content Editor for the Short-Term Discipleship Team at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the thankful husband of Kristen and proud father of Ceile and serves with the Life Group leadership team at the Church at Station Hill in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He is currently pursuing a Master’s from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his free time, Reid likes reading, watching NBA Basketball, Braves Baseball, and Auburn Football, and going to record stores. You can find him on Twitter @jreidpatton.