If you are facing a crisis in your life, or know someone who is, here is some advice for both situations.
If you Know Someone Who is in a Crisis
If you have a friend facing a crisis, just go be with them.
Just listen to them vent.
Don’t chide them for their emotions, fear, anger, hurt, despair.
Please don’t quote Scripture unless they ask you to.
Don’t offer theological truths which you think will help them.
Don’t ask them what sin they might have committed to make God discipline them.
In other words, don’t throw rocks. If you are afraid of saying the wrong thing, don’t say anything at all.
Most of the time, hurting people just want others to be there.
If you see something tangible that they need, offer to provide it for them, food, clothing, money, helping hands, resources. The only intangible aid you should offer is prayer, and only say “I’ll pray for you” if you are also thinking of ways to be an answer to your own prayers.
My father died when I was two, and my mother says that what I have written above holds true in that sort of crisis as well. A friend of mine lost his brother in a hiking accident a few years ago, and he confirms this as well.
When Facing Your Own Crisis
In a recent crisis my wife and I faced, one of the things that initially bothered us was how when we shared with others that we were going through a crisis, they responded by sharing a crisis that they were facing or had faced in their own lives.
Our first reaction was, “Don’t try to turn this around to you. I’m the one in pain!” But then we realized, “Wow, how self-centered are we?”
Yes, pain hurts, and sometimes life stinks.
But it’s this way for everybody at times.
And one way to get over your own pain, fear, hurt, and disappointment, is to realize that it’s part of life, that others are facing it too (and many of them much more than you are), and that you can either have a pity party for yourself, or try to help others through their own pain, which in turn helps you.
To help others through their own pain, go back and look at point number one above.
A Story About a Crisis
One day a Rabbi stood on a hill overlooking a certain city. The Rabbi watched in horror as a band of Cossacks on horseback suddenly attacked the town, killing innocent men, women, and children. Some of the slaughtered were his own disciples. Looking up to heaven, the Rabbi exclaimed, “Oh, if only I were God.”
An astonished student, standing nearby, asked, “But, Master, if you were God, what would you do differently?” The Rabbi replied, “If I were God I would do nothing differently. If I were God, I would understand.”
Like it or not, I think the Rabbi is right. The best we can do in a crisis (and maybe the most we should do) is simply say, “I don’t understand.”
In the comments below, please share your own suggestions for handling a life crisis, whether it is your own crisis or helping someone else through their crisis.
Brian Hedrick says
Amen. That is why we cannot understand. Everyones crisis is unique. I praise God you have passed through it. Sorry if I seemed to leave you with an “Ill go you one better” approach.
We are all still learning. Even God told Job he needed to shut up…and so if He told Him that then I know Ive got one coming and so with that I will drink a nice big cup of “Shut up” and depart.
Grace upon Grace,
Nice. I volunteered in NYC with a support group for parents children with mental illness. The leader would quite often emphasize the importance of what he called “spreading out the pain.” If you have people to share your pain, it becomes an easier burden. Sharing in someone else’s pain and having them share yours lightens both loads. I saw a lot of people show up in utter despair and leave with hope, simply from having someone to share their pain. Point #2 reminded me of that.
A dear friend of mine and his wife miscarried their baby a few years back. I tried and tried to think of something to say to him to make him feel better. I ultimately had to go to him and say, “I’m sorry. I can’t even comprehend what you must be feeling. Just realize that whenever you need anything, I’ll be there to help in any way I can.” It was the best I could do. I didn’t know if it helped. But then after Katrina he came to me and said the same thing. And it did help.
I really like the Rabbi story. I’ve thought for a while that our society places too much emphasis on knowing and doing and not enough on searching. I think I might use that.
Jeremy Myers says
Brian and Bullet,
I have actually found this blog to be somewhat helpful as well. They say that pain bleeds out through the pen (or something like that), so thanks for staying with me as I bleed a bit online!
Another story that may speak to you is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son had died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, “What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?” Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, the holy man said, “Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life.” At once the woman set off in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, thinking that such a rich family would not have known any sorrow. When the door was opened, the woman said, “I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me!” They told her she had certainly come to the wrong house, and began to list all the tragic things that had befallen that family. The woman listened, sadly, and let them tell their whole story before she continued in her search. Later she went to a shack, the next time to a city slum. But wherever she turned, from palace to public housing to country club, she listened to one story after another of sadness and misfortune. Ultimately she grew so involved in ministering to other peoples’ grief that she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed. She had not lost her sorrow, but found in it a purpose for her life.
If this story is not helpful where you are right now, I apologize. I recognize your first point in this post in Job’s unhelpful ‘friends’ and in myself. I always wish I could make everything better, but I can not.
Peace be with you, Jeremy.
Jeremy Myers says
Actually, that story is very helpful. Thank you. It is exactly what I have been finding in myself and in others.
I think I just did all of these things to you over on the dC site. Please forgive, me. If I can be of any help, please e-mail. My husband is a good source for ideas, and possibly could help get you networked, since we are in close vacinity. God bless you, Jeremy.
It’s been years since you posted this, so I think it’s ok to quote a few verses.
1 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
I am always amazed that when I am going through something, or my ordeal has ended, that the Lord puts people in my life who are experiencing similar or the same circumstances. I am able to help them, and that always helps me.
Aidan McLaughlin says
Jeremy, you are a legacy to your father’s memory. Death does not hold him and you are living proof of this. Thank you for being you and I appreciate your honesty. You have been a great help to me over the past weeks. And I know without doubt to many many other. Thank you brother.