For the sake of community

We were designed, by God, to live in community.  God made the family unit and He made it grow by generations.  He commanded His children to live in unity and to not forsake gathering together.  We build relationships, friendships, get married, have babies.  All are formed for that connection.  Our innate desire to be bonded with another person (people).

As beautiful as this can be, we are also a broken people.  In the midst of unity there is also dissension.  Our love is sprinkled with frustration and the world we live in can bring pain.  So, then, what should we do? How do we maintain the depth and bond that we so desperately need?

For the sake of community, we push each other to grow.  We cling to one another through the feelings of wanting to flee.  Of awkwardness when someone is feeling distant.  Of uncertainty when the bond is feeling thin.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:15-16

In a relationship, there will be seasons.  There will be a mixture of times to rejoice and times to mourn.  People love to rejoice!  It is so rewarding to bond with another person through celebration.  It comes naturally to want happiness.  Especially, when it is a time that everyone can share.

But, what happens when there is a time to mourn?  What do we do when the grief is so thick and the depth of pain is suffocating?  This season is tricky to navigate.  It can come with confusion or feelings of frustration because you do not know how to “make things better.”  We all have the person in our life that we think about, when you think about a season of grief.  So, how do you treat them?  The awkward feelings when they walk into the room…

If You have a friend who is in a season of grief, the following are suggestions to understand your time with them:

1)  Be Intentional

Pray for them.  Write them a note.  When you ask them “how they are doing,” let them really answer.  In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in life and lose track of things.  Even with the best of intentions, we tend to move on from the incident.  Our world keeps moving and their situation seems like it is at a stand-still.  That is okay, but be intentional.  Carefully say things you really mean and remember to pray if you say you are going to.  Your friend is not expecting you to give up your life for their pain, but make sure that you convey compassion.

2) Questions do not always express the concern you feel

We naturally like having details.  We are interested, and it often seems like asking a question will show you care.  However, in the middle of a season of grief or a crisis, the person will most likely be giving you all the details they want to share.  Questions often make a raw heart feel interrogated or defensive.  Train yourself to be satisfied with the information they share.  You can certainly ask things like “how can I pray,” or “is there something specific that you need help with,” but you do not need all the details to be a stable source of encouragement.

3) Give time

Giving your friend time will be one of the best ways to show love.  Most painful things take time and every person processes and grieves in different ways.  Most likely, your friend will not be passed their pain at the same rate as you would or as the last person who went through a similar experience.  Even following really good days, there will be moments or days that are more difficult.  Very few situations are contained in just one day or week.  They will have to re-learn how to live life with their new frame of reference, especially if their pain has not experienced closure.  Not acting like your friend should be “passed something already”, is a gift.

4) You probably do not really understand

Every person’s pain is different and situations are not exactly the same, even if it involves the same relationship or same loved one.  Having your dog die is not the same as having a human friend die.  Or having your parents divorce is not the same as having your spouse leave, etc.  One way that we often try to cope, with having a friend in pain, is trying to relate to them.  What you need to understand, however, is that it often hurts more when you do this.  The person in pain sees that the situation is not the same and it feels like a slap.  It feels like you are minimizing their situation, completely unintentional or otherwise.  The best way to comfort someone is to let them grieve.  You do not have to understand in order to comfort.  Unless your situation is literally the exact same, your illustrations are going to come up empty (and even then, be very careful as you share).

5) Include them in life, but give grace to opt out

Your friend understands that “life” continues.  They are not expecting you to cancel your child’s party or your dinner plans just because they are hurting.  But, they would like to still receive an invitation.  Slowly participating and regaining normalcy is to be expected.  You do not have to feel guilty at all if you have reasons to rejoice!  Your friend would like to be treated normal.  They will tell you if they need to opt out of something or if they “want to talk about it” without you checking in about it, every time.  With that said, if they do cancel or opt out…show grace.  Do not hold it against them and just plan to invite them next time!  Grace will be a balm on their wound and your friendship will be richer for it.

Proceed in the grace and love that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us.  Invest in your community.  It’s worth it!

Tomorrow we will talk about how to “rejoice with those who rejoice!”

We will close with “living in harmony with one another (Pt 1/2)”

Thanks for being in community and learning together to be more like Christ.

{Image from Google Images}

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