Jump Start # 3258
Philippians 2:25-26 “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you head that he was sick.”
Epaphroditus was a great co-worker of the apostle. Paul spoke fondly of him. He was sick, very sick. The follow passage says that “he was sick to the point of death.” However, God “had mercy on him” as the text reveals.
There are all kinds of emotions that come out when one is sick. This is true of the person who is not feeling well, as well as the family taking care of him. Some are very private and they do not like sharing info about their condition. Others are an open book. Some don’t want to be bothered, and others are bothered if no one is asking about them. It’s hard to navigate through serious illnesses. My wife is an oncology nurse and sees these things often. Offering comfort can be hard. It’s hard for the family and it’s hard for a congregation that wants to express love and support.
Our family is currently on this journey. My son, Jordan, who preaches, has been diagnosed with some serious health issues. You’d never know it by looking at his joyful smile and optimistic outlook, but the past few days have been busy with medical tests, doctor visits and lots of prayers. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. Our phones have blown up with text messages from all over the country from folks saying that they are praying for our family and especially Jordan. This truly is comforting.
Here are a few thoughts about comfort that I have learned:
First, people truly care. They really do. Some like to know details and that can make a person feel uncomfortable, so respect that. Letting someone know that you love them is much better than questions. Offers of help, places to stay, food, are things that so many of us can do.
Second, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, what we often call the golden rule, is so important. When a family is hurting, they need comfort. Hearing stories about others who had the same thing only they all died, scares. Whether it’s that, or hearing that a doctor or a hospital is being sued for malpractice is not the kind of comfort that comforts. Don’t be sandpaper to someone’s feelings.
Third, sometimes people who are hurting just do not want to talk. That’s ok. Silence helps. Remember Job’s three friends sat for a week and nothing was said. Presence comforts. But when a hurting person wants to talk, just listen. Job’s friends felt the need to answer everything Job had said. When one is hurting they may say things just to vent. It’s better to just let them talk. Telling your own story of pain and grief really doesn’t help much. So, listening is the best.
Fourth, pray and pray hard. There is a comfort that calms a worried heart when one knows so many are praying. Sometimes we want to do more. Sometimes we feel helpless and we want to fix things. But many, many times we can’t. Pray is something we can do. God listens. Prayer moves God. Prayer is powerful. Pray often. Pray many times throughout the day.
I believe we have the ‘rejoice with those that rejoice’ part down pretty well. It’s the weeping with those who weep part that we struggle with. We want them to stop weeping. We want to fix the weeping. We want them to be smiling and laughing again. We are not comfortable around weeping. But a good cry can be helpful. Not every day is sunny. Not every moment is happy.
Don’t force yourself upon someone that is hurting. Give them some space. Give them some time. The faith that one carries determines the impact that the journey will have upon them. From our passage today, Epaphroditus was distressed that his illness bothered the Philippians. His thoughts were of others even though he was the one that was sick.
There are times in our lives when we will sit along side of Job. There will be days when we are the one hurting. May our pain be an example of faith and hope for others. But, there will be days when we will sit with Job. At that time, may our presence build up and not hurt. May we understand, as in the case of Job, that husband and wife deal with pain differently. May we understand that someone, like Job, may say things that are expressed in pain and are not a true reflection of their faith.
Comforting those who are hurting. It is a blessing to be God’s hands and feet at those times. It is an honor to lift the name of someone else up to Heaven.
There are lessons to be learned in the sunshine as well as the darkness of the night. Open my eyes and let me see Jesus. And, say a little prayer for our Jordan.