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Crafted Care: I would not recommend parroting this information verbatim to anyone suffering. I’m speaking to you as a Christian. I do not know her. Each person is different. You will have to factor in her maturity, wisdom, stability, and other things to carefully bring God’s truth to her. Your two main call-to-action points are compassion and competence, in that order (Romans 15:14).
Theology & Psychology: There is a fundamental tension between what is theologically accurate and psychologically comfortable. Because the modern person begins with emotional comfort and tries to fit a theological framework within their psychological framework, they rewrite our theology to accommodate their feelings. There are times when theological precision collides with emotional comfort. Peter ran into this tension when He rebuked the Lord. The theological necessity of Christ dying on the cross did not accommodate Peter’s psychological (emotional) preferences. In Peter’s case, his psychological wants required rewriting sound theology.
Mysterious Sovereignty: Let’s begin with the most complex truth: One of the essential aspects of personal suffering is how we think about God when grief comes. To miss this aspect of suffering is to mishandle and misunderstand what is happening to us because God is in our suffering, permitting it. Suffering can be a means of grace to help us rethink how we think about God. If our focus is more on our suffering than God allowing it, then it will be essential to realign our thinking about God and the suffering, which is what you hope to accomplish with this lady. I’m not suggesting you say this to her, but it must be your worldview as you care for her.
Five Points: Part of what is going on here is that the Lord is drawing her to Himself, which is why she is asking questions about God and the death of her child. It also appears, if she is asking you, there has been some trust accrued between you two. The relational “bridge” you have built to share God with her will be challenged like no other time. Let’s begin with these five points for your consideration.
Is it possible for the Lord to be up to something good that can only come about through your suffering? Could the dark pain you are going through today be the tapestry the Lord will use to show the beauty of His plans for you?
These are good truths to consider as you reflect on His mysterious and good intentions for people. One of the more significant issues to ponder during times of suffering is the silence of God.
Silence does not mean a lack of leadership. Leadership is verbal, and leadership can be silent. Just because God is not speaking, it would be wrong to assume He is not leading. It’s both/and because there are times when the Lord needs to choose silence over speaking. (The book of Job talks about the silence of God.)
Remember, the Lord is a multitasker. This question will challenge your theology—how you think about and walk with God. Guard your heart as you seek to care for hers.
Where was God when all this went down? That is a typical question, and typically after the question is asked and answered, the person will struggle. Most of the time, the person is unsatisfied with God’s answers (Isaiah 55:8-9).
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
The more profound questions are: (tread carefully here)
There can be a sense of the guilt-shame-fear complex. Listen to her while being ready to bring her back to the gospel. Please give her a clear understanding of Paul’s perspective on condemnation, judgment, and fault-finding (Romans 9:20)
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
As you listen to her tragic narrative, make sure you don’t become bogged down in the narrative. There are two ditches to stay out of: (1) never getting out of what happened to her and (2) moving too quickly or casually away from what happened.
You’re listening to her story for three main reasons:
Let her tell you the bad stuff, and you tell her the good stuff. Ask God to show you when to move forward, but you must lead her on by all means.
Jesus listened to the woman at the well so she could communicate her perspective, but He did not fall into the trap of, “Oh my, what a horrible life you have had,” and never moved forward.
He listened to see where she was and then began to bring a better understanding of her perspectives. Let your friend be appropriately problem-focused, but you lead her to a God-centered way of thinking–as you listen to her story.
You cannot connect her suffering to a formula. The “I do good, and good will happen to me, and if I do bad, then bad things will happen to me” is poor theology.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7).
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).