Yesterday afternoon, the small rural community we live in experienced the shock and sadness of a tragic story unfolding...a story that you usually only read about in other small towns far away from the comfort of your own.
We don't know what happened with these two precious teenagers, boyfriend and girlfriend, or why they chose to end their lives together.
We do know that all of the community has been affected. Many knew this young couple, others know people who knew them. The rest of us have been affected in other ways, because in our hearts, we know that we can't understand the whys, but we know this isn't supposed to happen, not here, so close to home.
Many of us are left asking 'why' in a world that cannot offer answers that would satisfy. Those answers can't satisfy because we're not created to understand the 'why.' When Eve bit that apple, she thought she would know everything, but that was a lie...knowing what we know only leads us to ask more questions...and no answer on earth will satisfy. Or heal the wound. Or prevent the scars.
There are some wounds that leave scars.
After the wound heals, the skin and area around the scar are never quite the same. After the wound heals, the area is more tender, more sensitive. Changed.
The are some scars, though, that never heal.
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 about a thorn in the flesh he was given by God in order to keep him from becoming boastful or conceited.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:8-10
The unexpected and devastating loss of a child or loved one leaves a mark, a scar, which then becomes a thorn. A wound which never completely heals. It is always there. In the context of 2 Corinthians, it becomes a weakness.
Eventually, to the person carrying the wound of loss, it will become a reminder that God's grace is sufficient, that God's power is made perfect in weakness. However, it is a process to reach that place. Time and prayer are required to move towards that place of understanding and release.
What do you do now?
For now, as someone who wants to help, the questions that may be swirling in your head probably sound something like this: "What do I do? How can I help? What can I say?"
Here's a short list of what to do to help someone on the worst day of their life:
- Nothing; just be there. Listen. Cry with them.
- “Can we pray together?”
- “What can I do?”
And here's a list (in some ways more important) of what NOT to say to someone on the worst day of their life:
- “It will be alright.”
Unless you are God, you don’t know that.
- “I know how you feel”, usually followed by your own story.
No you don’t, and they are not interested in your story right now.
- “Everything works in a pattern for good.”
They probably know Romans 8:28, but right now the pain is too great to affirm that truth. And the “good” may not be in this life, but will assuredly be in the next.
- "If you/they only had enough faith, the person would have been saved/this wouldn't have happened to you."
See the first one. And repent of your arrogance and cruelty.
The best possible thing for you to do is to let the person who is suffering know that you're there for them. Don't worry about what to say. Frankly, your words would be insufficient. Offer your shoulder, cry with them, and help them bear their burden.
"Give me a stout heart to bear my own burdens. Give me a willing heart to bear the burdens of my brothers. Give me a believing heart to cast all burdens upon Thee, O Lord." - John Baillie on Galatians 6:1-5
Please pray for our community of Rosewood in North Carolina, for the parents and families of these two teenagers, for their classmates, teachers, and churches.
What to say and what not to say adapted from a short devotion by Steve Biddison.
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