The value of good friends and people genuine in their sympathy and empathy is beyond measure. You quickly discover who these people are when someone close to you dies.
This happened for me this week with the death of my mother. It wasn’t a surprise; in fact it was expected, but it was nevertheless a kick in the stomach for my father, my my sister and myself.
While the death of loved ones is a natural part of life — painful as it is — the antithesis of this pain and grief is a blessing beyond value, and can only be found in the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves. Sadly, not everyone has the ability to offer these blessings.
I was explaining this to my best friend on the phone, and in part to another friend this afternoon over lunch. The value of their friendship cannot be measured. Neither can the value of those working in our local hospice. Those folks are truly remarkable in their compassion and for what they do for the patient and the families. I have no words sufficient to thank them.
Most importantly has been my faith in Jesus Christ through this period, as well as the years leading up to this moment in my life. I’m sure there is a time in every Christian’s life where they must decide for themselves if the faith and trust they placed in God is real and tangible for them. For me it’s been a journey punctuated by extreme lows and the exhilaration of life on the virtual mountaintop. This amazing reassurance and faith doesn’t come through osmosis, but by studying and reading the Bible, through the teaching of a good pastor, and the relationships developed through the church. There are no short-cuts, and certainly no cliff notes available to achieve this level of assurance.
I’m no expert, but I think that circumstances such as divorce, the death of a family member or someone close to you, and other human tragedies are those circumstances used by God as a means to test our faith and resolve in our decision to follow Him and obey His direction for our lives.
That’s why it’s rather troubling and somewhat unnerving to hear people gleefully proclaim that simply exercising our faith is somehow an antidote to life’s troubles, as if our Bibles are nothing more than a genie’s bottle to be rubbed and the Holy Spirit some sort of magical being whose sole purpose it is to grant our wishes. That’s why I prefer to avoid certain motivational speakers pretending to be pastors — because their advice runs counter to what I see and read in my Bible.
Imagine then how refreshing it is when friends display true sympathy and empathy and, rather than Job’s three friends who spent an inordinate amount of time suggesting how bad a person he must have been to deserve God’s wrath (you can read this story in the Old Testament book of Job), avoid the trite Bible verse citations and simply say “I’m sorry, how can I help?”
We’re all going to be there at some point in our lives. We will all suffer human losses through death and we will likely all be witness to others going through similar circumstances. Knowing this, we can all purpose to extend proper sympathy and empathy, and be grateful when others extend it to us.