What Grieving People Wish You Knew

I was standing in the reception line after a funeral waiting to shake the hands of the grieving family members and I was wondering what I was going to say to these people I barely knew.

Standing…waiting…wondering. Those words only partly describe me that day. The word I need to add?

Panicking.

What could I say? What could make this awful thing better? And, yes, I was thinking, “What can I say that will help them and yet not make me look like a complete idiot?”

I mumbled something – I don’t even remember what, but I did come away with the impression that I had said something stupid. So, when I heard about Nancy Guthrie’s book, What Grieving People Wish You Know About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts), I bought it right away.

To be honest, I put off reading the book until a friend was grieving the loss of a dear family member. I had to know what to say to her and what to do for her. I’ve read the book twice since then. I mentioned it in my post Best Books of 2016, but I really need to tell you more about it and convince you that you need to read What Grieving People Wish You Knew.

My first impression of the book is that it is a perfect example of what correction in the church should be. The reader is lovingly called out for mishandling grieving people and then shown how to handle the problem in a way that is solidly based in Scripture. Nancy Guthrie’s kind and loving unwillingness to allow us to dodge the problem and her generous and open sharing of ways to help our grieving friends has given me a great respect for her. More than that it has made me eager to hear her and to follow her advice.

So let’s get on with it – let me give you a taste of her advice to those of us who want to know what grieving people wish we knew. Here are just three from the first chapter entitled “What To Say (And What Not to Say)”.

1. Say Something

Saying nothing tells your friend that her loss was not important – that her loved one was not that important. Saying that you are sorry for her loss is better than saying nothing at all. Nancy also points out that is important to say the name of the person who died. They haven’t disappeared as if they never existed. They have died and the grieving family needs to know that they are not forgotten. Remember that your words won’t fix what has happened, but they can let your friend know that she isn’t alone.

2. Don’t Compare Their Grief to Yours

Before my friend lost her family member, my mother had died. I thought I knew what she was feeling, but the truth is that I didn’t at all. Hearing about your experience is not helpful until and unless your grieving friend asks. This is a time for us to practice humility, keep ourselves out of it, and make it all about our friends.  Which leads to another wise piece of advice.

3. Take The Grieving Person’s Lead

People handle grief in so many different ways and in so many different time frames. We must purposely determine to be listeners and to be companions in the journey, allowing the grieving friend to lead in what she wants to talk about and when she wants to talk about it. Nancy writes, “…there is great power and comfort in simply showing up and being willing to sit in the silence and listen to the person who is grieving give voice to their regrets…fears…complaints…rehearsals of the events…questions…chaotic thoughts, conflicting feelings, disappointments, desires, and despair.” Let your grieving friend talk.

These three pieces of advice are just the tip of the iceberg of this lovely book. There are pages and pages of quotes from grieving people telling us what to do and what to say and what not to say to them.

Nancy Guthrie also talks to us about what to do for grieving people. When someone dies, we so want to do something to make it better, but there are only so many casseroles a grieving family can consume. What else can we do? Nancy gives us a whole chapter of ideas such as leave messages on the phone, send notes, mark your calendar to make contact on the anniversary of the death, share photos of the deceased that the grieving friend may never have seen, and bring stuff like toilet paper and paper plates – common things that may get forgotten until they are needed.

There’s so much more I love about this book – the insight into the true feelings of grieving people and the loving encouragement to stand by a grieving friend. There’s no condemnation of our reactions to grief in the past – just truth to help us to minister to grieving people now and in the days to come.

You will have grieving friends – it’s a fact we cannot escape. If you want to be useful to your friends rather than panicking in the reception line, read What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts) by Nancy Guthrie.

 

photograhy by Unsplash.com

Embrace It

Embrace. More than a hug. Fully wrapping your arms around it and holding it…

God has been teaching me to embrace several things in the past few months.

Embrace the way He made me…embrace what I see as good and what I see as bad knowing that when He put me together He said it was very good.

Embrace the gifts He has given me. Don’t hide them. Don’t neglect them. Use them for His glory and to encourage and equip His people.

Embrace critique. I don’t like this one. I still shy from it, but I am learning that when I embrace it, it doesn’t hurt nearly as badly as I thought it would and it makes me better at using my gifts.

Embrace change. I really don’t like this one. And yet, it shakes me up and makes me look at things more closely. It makes me examine myself and see more changes that need to happen – that I need to embrace.

Embrace trial. Does anyone like this one? I don’t think so. And I don’t mean embrace it like you love it. I mean embrace it so that you can get everything out of it that God intends. Embrace the endurance that it builds in you. Embrace the strong faith that comes out of it. Embrace the knowing that God never leaves during the trial.

Embrace community. For some of you this is no big deal. For me it is huge. To step out of my tendency to be a lone wolf. To turn away from thinking I can do this on my own. And finding out that community is what I have been craving all along and didn’t know it.

And finding out that when I embrace community, I am really learning how to embrace the way He made me, the gifts He has given me, critique from people who love me, change with the help of friends, trial alongside brothers and sisters.

Embrace.

I think I am getting it.

 

A little late this week, but I am joining the other writers at Five Minute Friday writing on the prompt word – Embrace. You can join us at www.katemotaung.com.

 

Photography by PicJumbo

What Is a Real Friend?

A friend – a real friend – is a treasure.

Being a friend – a real friend – is hard work.

Too long I’ve looked at friends as something I want and need when I should have been looking at whether I was putting in the hard work necessary to be a real friend.

So what does it take to be a real friend?

  1. Unselfishness. Why is it so hard  to put other people before myself? That is what a real friend does! A real friend looks at those around her and sees their needs and looks for ways to meet those needs.
  2. Grace. A real friend clearly sees her own sin and the grace that God offered her and is able to offer that same grace to her friends.
  3. Time. A real friend takes the time to do the hard work of listening without an agenda, without checking her text messages, without thinking about what to say next. She freely offers her time to her friends.
  4. Honesty. A real friend is not afraid to tell truth about herself and she gently tells her friends the truth about them to help them to be the best they can be.
  5. Love. A real friend loves with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love – the kind of love her Savior lavished on her. She’s not stingy with her love. She’s not conditional with her love. She offers her love freely without expectation of a return.

Hard, hard work, but so very worthwhile. And really, just exactly what our Best Friend calls us to be to the people around us.

God, help me to be a real friend!

 

I’m joining my friends at Five Minute Friday in writing on the prompt word – Friend. Please come along with us – write about friends and read what others are saying about friends. You can find us at www.katemotaung.com.

photography from Unsplash.com

What’s Going On, Mrs. Noah?

How would you have felt? I just ask you!

My husband comes home with a wild look in his eyes, calls for our sons, grabs an axe, and takes off for the woods. No explanation. Not a hint of when they’d be home again. What about dinner? No consideration – none at all.

And that was just the first day.

We’d always been a normal, respectable family. My husband had always been a good man – everybody said so. My sister, Irene, and my best friend, Nadine, said I was the lucky one. And they were right.

So what happened to him? It took forever but I finally pieced together some of the story. God had talked to him. I know, I know. It sounds crazy. Just wait ’til you hear the rest.

God told him to build a great big boat. We didn’t live by a lake or the ocean or even a river, you know, but a boat he started to build. In our backyard. Where everybody could see it. Imagine that.

The bigger that boat got the worse it got. People gawking. People laughing. And then, people avoiding us.

Nadine for one. We’d been friends since we were little girls. We met at the well every single day. No more. My best friend lost. For what? For my crazy husband’s crazy boat.

But it got worse.

My husband, God bless him, started to tell our neighbors that it was going to rain and rain and that the only way to escape was to get on his giant boat. I saw their faces. Why couldn’t he see what was coming? They laughed in his face. “What is rain, you crazy old man? Why should we be afraid of rain, whatever that is?”

I didn’t go to the well anymore. I sent one of my daughters-in-law. It was just too embarrassing. The whispered jokes. The pointing fingers. The eyes that wouldn’t meet mine. No, I stayed at home as much as possible.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it got worse.

The boat, the ark – that’s what my husband called it – was finished. My husband and my sons started packing it with food and water and all kinds of supplies. One day, out of curiosity, I took a look inside. There were rooms for people, but there were many, many stalls and cages and coops and hutches. What insanity was this?

And then animals began to arrive. Yes, that’s what I said. They began to arrive – no shepherd driving them, no keeper of any kind. They were just coming and getting on the ark. So strange. At first everyone stayed away. I stayed in the house. There were animals we’d never seen before – animals with sharp teeth and huge claws. But, after a couple of days of this, the neighbors came out to watch. Irene, my sister, came with her children. “Sister, what is going on? What is your husband doing?”

I didn’t know, but I knew that it wasn’t him who was gathering these animals. I was beginning to think that maybe God had talked to him. “Irene, I don’t know what is going on, but I think you better get your family ready to get on the ark with us.”

“You’ve got to be kidding! Are you as crazy as your husband? I’m not getting on that ark.”

And then the sky started to look different. Describing it is hard. Gray instead of blue. It looked…well, it looked angry.

My husband told us it was time to get on the ark. He said that God was going to save us. He said that God would take care of us. I still didn’t understand, but I was afraid. More afraid of staying in my house than I was afraid of all those animals on that big boat. My husband saw that I was afraid. When I was about to lose it, he took my face in his hands and looked in my eyes and he said, “God will provide for us. He will save us.”

And I believed him.

I packed the house up and we moved into the ark. The neighbors jeered at us as we went, but I said nothing. Just as I was about to go into the big door of the ark, something wet fell on my cheek. I touched the wet spot and then another drop fell. I looked up at the angry sky and, suddenly, my face was wet. Was this it? Was this rain?

My husband called out to our neighbors once more, begging them to come on the ark with us, promising that God would save them. They laughed, they yelled evil words, and a few threw clods of dirt and even stones.

We went in the ark, but that big door was still open. Just as I was about to ask how we would shut the door, it creaked and began to move. A chill went up my spine. No one was touching that door, but it was definitely closing.

As soon as the door completely closed and my sons latched it tight, there was a booming noise and then the sound of an avalanche of drops of water hitting the wood of the ark.

The next sound I heard was the most horrible sound I have ever heard. It  was my neighbors, my friends, my family crying out for the door to be opened. My own sister was out there. My best friend was out there. Everything I had known was out there.

I caught my husband’s eyes on me and the peace I saw in his eyes instantly stopped the panic that had begun to well up in me. He believed God. He really believed God.

It was enough for me at that moment that my husband believed. But that was not the end.

The day that we knew the ark was floating. The day that I faced the fact that my sister and my friend were gone. The day that I realized those ferocious animals were not ferocious at all. The day we saw that our food supplies never seemed to diminish. The day that I realized that the stink that should be coming from such a huge company of animals and people was not happening. The day that I realized how much I loved my daughters-in-law. The day that I remembered that my husband was not crazy but was a very good man.

And then the day that God opened the door.

Sunshine, green grass, solid ground, safety, and a new start.

God had torn me away from everything I knew and depended on and He had given me something new. He had saved us and provided for us.

He had not talked to me the way he had talked to my husband, but He had shown me who He was and He had provided. No, He had not talked to me, but, like my husband, I believed!

 

This is the second story in the series, Through Her Eyes. Click here to see the first in the series.

Photography from Unsplash

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