The resiliency of the human spirit is awe-inspiring. We have an incredible capacity to function in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances. Somehow we pull it together and keep plodding until we emerge from the mists of disaster.
That’s not to say we don’t have our moments and wonder exactly how we will survive. Death, illness, divorce, parenting, chemical and emotional dependencies, unemployment, failed plans, accidents, natural disaster, loneliness, war – the list is as endless as we are unique – are common to all of us. Even though we know there are others who have experienced and survived similar experiences, it’s common to feel alone and isolated. It’s a fine line between setting ourself apart for healing and reaching out or coming alongside someone for help.
Writing blog posts about gun deaths has brought me into contact with some really incredible people. These are parents, friends, spouses, children, colleagues, neighbors, and grandparents of people you have lost loved ones in murder/suicides, drive-by shootings, suicide, accidents, even homicides. Most of us don’t anticipate having to say goodbye to someone we love killed by a firearm. Yet, most of these courageous people look for and find something meaningful as a way to honor the one they love, motivated by the fact they don’t want their loved one’s death to have been in vain.
Receiving help and finding ways to help others when the time is right brings both closure and meaning to something difficult. I’m the first to acknowledge that many people who want to be helpful aren’t helpful at all. When you’re in the abyss, the last thing you want to do is deal with unhelpful people. However, there usually are a tiny handful of trusted confidants who will listen and be truly helpful with practical things while you heal.
In my post, Life Goes On, I mentioned a passage of scripture that speaks to the unique position someone who’s “been there”.
Blessed be … the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God (II Corinthians 1:3-4).
Sometimes something gets lost in translation and that’s what happens in this passage. This letter to the church in Corinth was written in the vernacular language, Koine Greek. Paraklesis is the Koine Greek word we translate for console. The literal translation is called alongside. In other words, God comes alongside us to comfort us in our distress. We, in turn, are then called to come alongside another to bring comfort to someone else in their distress.
I’ve always said that God’s choicest counselors are those “who have been there”. Someone who’s gone through something similar as you knows what was helpful and what wasn’t. You, in turn, will be able to share your insights and practical tips to someone else. Heartfelt support or help is a precious gift both to receive and to give.
It would be nice if the resiliency of our human spirit didn’t have to be so tested, leaving us to wonder if we really will be able to go one with our life. But alas, that’s not to be this side of eternity. Instead, in those time, may we lean into the strong arms of God and others who come alongside to comfort us. And may we take our own turn to come alongside another when they are in need of a caring soul.