Wednesday, October 21, 2015

No Hallmark Platitudes

At a loss for what to say to a friend going through grief or other intense suffering? Whatever else you say, Don't Give Them Hallmark Platitudes (by Erik Raymond):
What do you say when someone close to you enters a season of intense pain and grief? How do serve them well?
Some of the most common choices include the following. First, you can avoid them. It is painful and unsettling to see people hurting; it’s easier to just avoid it. Second, you can minimize it. Try to shrink down the effect of what is happening by contrasting it with something else. Third, you could trivialize it. This is perhaps the most common. Here we say a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make any sense or help. But, it’s ok since it is in a nice voice or because it comes in a card.
I don’t believe any of these are helpful or advisable. Staying away does not help the person who is hurting. Friends, and in particular Christian friends, are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Rm. 12.15). Minimizing grief is just a smoke screen that doesn’t ever help. After all, Christians have a context for what is happening so providing this is actually more helpful. And finally, the Hallmark platitudes just don’t help. It actually makes the problems we are facing worse because it shows that we don’t really have much in the way of help; we just say stuff that sounds nice.
Instead of Hallmark give hurting people Habakkuk. That doesn’t sound very marketable, does it? But it is helpful. Let me explain.
Habakkuk and his people were getting their tails kicked by neighboring countries. God tells him that it is going to get far worse before it’ll get better. The Babylonians were stretching their hamstrings and about to invade, assault, and capture them. The bad religious people in Israel would be judged by the bad pagan people in Babylon. Habakkuk is grappling with his lot in life. It was hard. And this is what we can learn about suffering and helping those who are hurting. God hears the cries and wades into them. Far from minimizing, sentimentalizing, relativizing, or staying away, God enters in and provides counsel.
As you read Habakkuk in light of the situation in the book you see that God’s dealing with the prophet is instructive for us. Here are a few of the things we can glean from the book in this light....

Read the rest at the link.