It’s the obvious question that follows on from my post yesterday. And I have all sorts of thoughts swirling around in my head in response:
- I want to point to Job’s friends — whose mute presence was so much more powerful and right than any of the words they went on to speak.
- I want to dwell on some of the things they teach you in Clinical Pastoral Education about the need to ‘ventilate’, ‘differentiate’ and only then attempt to ‘integrate’ that those who are suffering experience.
- I want to echo what Dan’s been saying recently about grief, expectation, comfort and disappointment (as well as his older but equally profound reflection on the importance of small talk for signalling that someone who’s suffering isn’t wholly determined by their suffering).
- And, above all, I want to interrogate my own internal monologue when it runs along these lines: When I say ‘show up’ for those suffering, I don’t mean literally go and be there and try to help…
Of course, a Christian response will be interested primarily in God showing up.
So our first duty and privilege has to do with our prayers — our prayers that God would in fact show up and do something (even now, before Christ’s return).
But learning to pray such prayers shouldn’t be where ‘showing up’ ceases. It should bind us to those who are suffering.
And it should stir up in us an urgent desire to be present ourselves. For even if this isn’t practical — and, as I’ve already indicated, I’m aware there’s a danger of too easily excusing ourselves here — our desire should express itself concretely in word and in what we send (just as Paul reports it did in relation to the fledgling Thessalonian church).