Thursday, September 29, 2016

How to Comfort the Grieving

Your Friend is Experiencing Death...
by Jeff Korhorn

An odd by-product of my loss is that I'm aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they'll 'say something about it' or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don't...I like best the well-brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”
-CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

So WHAT do you do with someone who has experienced the death of someone close to them?

Before you meet, remember this about death:

  1. Reality. Death is the result of sin, “And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden' but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
  2. Reality. All will experience death, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through on man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
  3. Reality + Hope. “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
  4. Hope. But God has made a way to spiritual life! “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  5. Hope. All in Christ will not actually die, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)
  6. Hope. One day God will restore all things. “No longer will there be any curse.” (Revelation 22:3)

How do you converse with someone who is grieving?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

  1. God is a God of comfort. He is a compassionate God. He is even compassionate on those who sin. Jonah 4:9-11 Romans 5:8 are great examples of this.
  2. God has comforted you SO THAT we can comfort those in trouble. Use that same comfort. The word for comfort is parakalew, which is a combination of two words. Para- which is alongside, and Kaleo- which is to call. What this means is that we pull someone close to us. It also means to share with them a similar story of how you faced a similar situation (if you have one) and therefore understand grief. What does this look like (I am about to share with you how those who comforted me best did it, and how God has comforted me).
How to apply 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

1. Be close.
Hugs, hand holding, or a listening ear, or all three. Some don't like touch, so keep that in mind. I have been held and have melted during hard times. The dog knew something was wrong, so he sat alongside of me and even rested part of his body weight along my side. And the dog stayed there until I was able to regain composure. I believe God used that dog to teach me a lesson and to comfort me. Even just to sit silently in the room and your presence being there is a help. People really need to know that they are not alone, that God has not abandoned them. Your presence also lets them know that God is present.

2. Be a Listener.
Okay, before we continue. We need to be thinking James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Be quick to listen. Be slow to speak. And be slow to become angry (like Job's friends). Sometimes the grieving person may be angry at God. Absorb these things for now and don't get angry. Rather, keep those things in mind to talk about at a later time when things are not as acute.

Paul David Tripp in his book Grief: Finding Hope Again has this to say- The struggling person should “speak with honest emotion”
Allow the person to speak with honest emotion.
Job has some good input on this also.

Good questions to ask are:
A. How can I pray for you?
B. How can I help you?
C. What is one thing you appreciate about x (the deceased)? (speak about the deceased in the present, because they are still alive. Do this unless the person requests otherwise).
D. I know this is hard. Do you want to talk about it?

3. Speak.
At this point, you will have to make a judgment. You need to determine where the person is on the suffering scale. If they are acutely suffering, don't lecture, or try to give them the reasons why this happened (unless God has specifically told you why, or unless they ask you).
Job's friends are a great example of what not to do. In fact, Job said, “I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you! Will your long-winded speeches never end? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” (Job 16:1-5)
Instead encourage them, comfort them, so they may have relief. Relief that they are loved by you, that they will not walk through this alone, and that they are loved by God.

Romans 8:28
is a great go to verse WHEN and only WHEN the person asks you for advice to help them heal. If you launch into the Bible study, you are just like Job's friends. In fact, in the medical world there is a Wong-Baker Face Grimace Scale that is used to help people determine how much pain someone is in. When someone is in acute pain or suffering, it is not wise to give them counsel, but to just be there and tell them that you care for them, you love them, and that you are there for them. Give them eye contact and get close. Let them know this. As the acuteness of the suffering wears down (which takes x amount of time), you can then begin to bring them other forms of comfort.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
  1. How many things does God work for good? ALL THINGS
  2. Does all things include the current situation that the person is in?
  3. For the good of whom? Those who love him, those who have been called according to his purposes. It is the believer, the one who loves Jesus. If this person is a believer that it is safe to say, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of X.” x=person's name.

Psalm 23
This is a great encouragement for a believer. The believing griever can insert their name here.

 1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters,3 he refreshes my soul .He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil,for you are with me;your rod and your staff,they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;my cup overflows.6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Some other resources on this are:
Grief:Finding Hope Again by Paul David Tripp
What Grievers Can Expect by Wally Stephenson
A Grief Observed by CS Lewis
C.S. Lewis on Grief

The Unredeemed
What if the person is not a believer in Jesus or if the deceased is not a believer in Jesus?
I had a dear friend lose a son in a terrible traffic accident. During the services she asked me, “Is my son in Heaven?” My response was, “If Jesus was his lord and savior, he is in heaven today.”

The unredeemed is a whole different ball game! My go to is to say:
  1. I do not know where a person's heart was between them and the Lord.
  2. I do know that all who receive Jesus as their savior will have eternal life.
  3. I know that the deceased and God would want that for the person asking the question. I have used the story of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and I have used John 3:16-18.
  4. Ask them if they would like to do this.
  5. I follow the principles of comfort that were laid out in this paper.
*This is IF they ask questions. If they do not, I will not offer these things up during acute suffering. Instead I follow the principles in this paper.

4. Embrace Awkwardness.
Out of love, you will need to take the step. You will need to embrace the awkwardness of the situation and love on them.

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

for each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5)

In life we have loads that we need to carry and we have burdens that we will need help with. A load and burden is determined by the situation and person. For some, a flat tire on the side of the road is a load, for others it is a huge burden, too heavy, too hard to figure out. For some, finding a job is a load, for others it can be a near impossible burden. Death of a loved one is almost always a burden, even if ther person claims it is only a normal load. So you, as their friend, and Christ's ambassador, will need to take some initiative here, just as Christ took the initiative by coming down to earth (Philippians 2), and embrace the awkwardness of the situation. Depending on the person, you need to judge how they are doing, and determine if they need help.

And remember, eventually God's dwelling place will be among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:1-8)

Death is a normal experience in this life. All of us will go through this process, and all of us will be the one being mourned for ourselves. It is a big deal to the broken-hearted, because God put love, passion, relationships, and hope in our hearts. Let's love them with the love that God has given us.