There have been many times over the last decade when we found out that a friend had lost their child, or a friend of a friend asking what they should do or say to help their friend in grief. Do you want to know what my answer is? My answer is the same. Each and every time.
“I don’t know what to say.”
I am constantly turning in my Bible to Romans 8:26.
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.
I need to be reminded that it is okay to not know what to say. To be at a loss for words. It’s okay to groan.
When I got an email from a friend asking what to say to a friend who had a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, I said the same thing, “I don’t know what to say.” I could say something like, “Your child will be fantastic and successful and full of joy, and it will be really really hard, but I promise you, there will be more good than hard.” The majority of that would be true, but the fact is, is that when I received my diagnosis, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted someone to sit with me. To grieve with me. To grieve the expectations that we had all had for our children.
As humans, we want to have answers to the “why”. We want to know the reasoning to why things happen the way they do, but we don’t have these answers, so when we give “answers” to the one walking in grief and pain, they sound trite and unkind. It’s hard to sit in silence when someone is hurting so bad. It’s not in our nature. We want to give advice. We want to help, but sometimes “helping” is simply sitting in the darkness with a friend and grieving with them.
Since I am at a loss for words, even though I have experienced a surprise diagnosis and the loss of two of our children, I have begun sending texts or messages full of the Bible to friends who are experiencing any kind of loss-a child, a loved one, divorce, loss of expectations, a job-anything. I have no words, but Jesus does. The Psalmist does. The heaviness of the Psalms is comforting. The lament and the brokenness and the recognition of where our hope lies in the midst of life’s pain is comforting.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my LORD;
I have no good apart from you.” (vs 1 & 2)
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (vs 5 & 6)
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presences there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (vs 9-11)
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me. O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD -how long?
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (vs 2-4)
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes. (vs. 5-7)
…the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer. (vs 8-9)
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I have found that the Scriptures are much more eloquent and far more accurate than I am. When you are faced with a grieving friend or you are in the midst of it yourself the Bible is the only balm for a hurting heart, because therein lies the hope of the Gospel that we all desperately need.