Weeping with Those Who Weep (and Letting Others Weep with You)
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We have all dealt with a loss or heartbreak of some kind in our lives. Tragedies can strike out of nowhere, and when they do they hit hard. Some people have felt pain that is so extremely potent and horrific that it may seem that they are left alone, drowning in a sea with no hope in sight. One of the beautiful things about belonging to a church and Christian community is the familial care that is unlike any other. It not only gives us an opportunity to receive care, but also to come alongside others and be there when they need us most, which is especially valuable when they have no other family members to whom they can turn.
As Christians we are called in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who rejoice, and we are also called to weep with those who weep. This verse, in fact, is located in a section of the Bible that is often labeled “The Marks of a True Christian.” So what can we do to fulfill this command? What are ways that we can be a comfort to others? What are things we can do to find peace and comfort?
1. Attend Church and Be Present
Making ourselves available to the preaching of the Word and communion of the saints is one of the most important things we can do, whether that be seeking comfort or being there to give it. Surrounding ourselves with our brothers and sisters in Christ and opening ourselves up to what the Scriptures have to say through the preaching and teaching of Christ’s “under-shepherds” will sometimes give us timely answers to our sorrows or what to say to those grieving. It will also allow us to get out of our own heads and sorrows and share them with those who genuinely care for us as we share in communion and fellowship. Do not face your griefs alone. Find comfort in God, his Word, and his people. Enter into the proverbial arms of Christ by entering into his church.
2. Read Scripture
Explore what the Word has to say. Not only can we speak to God but he speaks to us in the Scriptures. We can see how saints have expressed their sorrows and how they have also given and received comfort. Job’s friends did best when they just sat there and were silent with him after he lost everything. Hezekiah, after finding out that he was about to die, prayed to the Lord. David cried to the Lord and attended worship after the death of his son. We can also see that it is perfectly appropriate to grieve.
The Psalms prove once again to be a treasure trove of biblical examples of what it is to cry out to God in honest, raw anguish and frustration. They also teach us how to redirect that cry towards spiritual resolution, peace and God-honoring trust. They even give us words that we can pray verbatim when we ourselves have no words.
Even Jesus himself wept. We can see this when he cries in front of Lazarus’ tomb. Not only does he mourn the death of his friend whom he loved, as the Jews also noted, but perhaps, as Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, he is even looking forward to his own death on behalf of all the saints that he loves. The full weight of the fall is weighing on him as the Creator who knows that things are not the way they should be. Jesus came to defeat that enemy of old and put an end to decay and death one day.
Speak to God. Pray for your fellow brothers and sister in Christ who are weeping. Unload your pain and sorrow on him. Again, turn to the Psalms for some wonderful examples of how we might do both of these. However, if we do not know what to pray for exactly or still find ourselves unable to express our anguish, Romans also tells us, “likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). He takes these directly to Christ, who intercedes on our behalf as he stands at the right hand of the Father.
4. Give Comfort
It may be hard and uncomfortable, but this is what we are called to do. If you do not know what to say to those in heartache, just be there with them. Open up your hearts and your homes, make yourself available to them, and help them to grieve. Remind them of the light of Christ when they are in the darkness of sorrows. And for those that have faced tremendous pain, open up to others and speak to them, especially to those who are going through similar situations. Some of you have gone through things that are unimaginable, but those of you who have been raked deep by tragedies often have the deepest trenches through which grace can flow forth to others (see 1 Cor. 1:4, 5). And let us all rest in God as we look forward to that day when every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21:4).
Matt Mullininx holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Westminster Seminary California.
A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser