Serve others in transition when I’m in pain!!!! Are you serious?
I probably have brushed over one crucial area too quickly as I have blogged about the change process, “endings,” “transition,” “new beginnings.”
God fashioned us to influence others, which means, serve others.
Certainly, we are acutely conscious of our own strong feelings from loss in “endings.” And we also must keep others in mind, even in our own pain. Both/And!
Actually, thinking of others, switches our mindset to God’s way of thinking: serving others. This helps us stay centered during change. So also ask: “Who else besides me will be affected by these endings?” Picture their faces. Note what they may lose. Help them process well. Empathy feels the hurts of others as if they were our own.
Where do we go to find a healthy model to serve others out of our own pain?
Perhaps the most painful “transition” and “ending” ever experienced was Jesus in His suffering and death.
Luke 22 gives us a powerful glimpse into how Jesus, even in the midst of His painful trial, helped others prepare for their own “endings” into “transition” and then on to “new beginnings.”
Quickly note the context. They had just celebrated the first communion service together (22:13-23). The disciples followed this reminder of unity with a dispute over which of them was greatest (22:24). Jesus reminded them that power brokers are not the way of Jesus, but servant-influence flowing out of vision of the Kingdom and personal relationship with Jesus (22:25-30).
Here is a quick dive into our Master’s dialog with Peter to whet your appetite to dive in deeper yourself. We are called to serve others, even in the midst of our pain. Note the interlacing of a Both/And approach.
Jesus candidly tells Peter that Satan wants to sift him, but He has prayed “that your faith may not fail.” Jesus shares both the pain in trials and also points Peter to his source of strength in the midst of trials. And don’t sugarcoat the trials (“No biggie. It will all work out fine”).
Jesus implies that Peter will fall, giving space and permission for missteps on our journey (“when you return to me”). Then Jesus gives Him a God-assignment when he bounces back (“strengthen your brothers”). “Failure is not final, but part of the training process.” A vision to serve, even in the midst of horrific trials when we feel betrayed, centers us.
Peter does not know aspects of himself well. Since self-awareness is essential to ongoing growth, Jesus names Peter’s specific weakness (“deny me three times”), in broad strokes, not in intricate detail. In fact, this later caused Peter his greatest pain (see Luke 22:61-62). Such directness is a loving act, although difficult to receive.
Jesus reminds the disciples of God’s past provision (note the “them,” not just Peter) , and points him to the change that will happen.
The disciples misunderstand. Jesus does not push in and teach more at this time. Layer learning (teaching one layer at a time) promotes healthy growth through the process of change. This demands great discernment. For me as a teacher, I’m learning to stop sooner since knowledge only helps if the other opens up to put truth into practice. For those with a high compassion/empathy, be willing to nudge them toward self-awareness so they do not miss the benefits in trials. Know yourself!
And central to this whole process as Jesus served Peter is relationship, koinonia. Jesus had already established a close connection with Peter.
Also, Jesus processed this with Peter face-to-face.
Our culture faces a great danger right here. It’s easy to put too much weight on social media because it’s so common. We may neglect to factor in how difficult it is to communicate empathy and compassion through fact-based social media, like phones and text, Instagram and Facebook. Defer any counsel to a face-to-face meeting so they can see on our countenance how very much we care.
Also fascinating to me!
It’s Peter that later gives us detailed instruction how to personally face suffering by sketching out the example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-24). Don’t naval gaze and ignore others in your sphere of influence during the change-process. God desires to use these tough times to release more of the depths of His heart.
As an add-on for your reflection:
It appears to me that we may have some unspoken beliefs in the church that only reflect part of the truth as we relate with one another, especially in loss. I see these as deceit, a part of authentic truth lifted up as if it were the whole. Deceit is a rotten lie at the core wrapped in a part of the whole truth, like bait covers a fishing hook.
It looks tasty. It’s common practice. It’s well-meaning advice. Yet deceit will undermine our ability to grow spiritually in the fertile soil of koinonia. Koinonia is the sharing together of the life of Jesus as we minister authentically to one another. We must develop a healthy, Bible-based theology of pain and suffering.
1. “If you are a good friend, you will only encourage me and see my good.”
Yet Jesus was the greatest friend ever and saw the good, bad and ugly in Peter, even the denial that was coming. And Jesus accepted him right there, although loving Peter too much to leave Him there. Friendship accepts the whole person, coming alongside with both grace and truth.
2. “When someone is in pain, we just need to sit with them in empathy and compassion.”
Today I hear we “we need to be safe for people in pain.”
Yes, empathy and compassion are essential, and the first step.
Also be confidential.
Yes, respect the dignity of each person as a unique image-bearer. We don’t violate their personal boundaries. So please don’t assume they are open to counsel from you now. Ask, and respect their wishes.
Yet beneath “safe” seems to be an assumption that if we talk straight like Jesus, we are not “safe.” When the doctor comes into my hospital room, if I were badly burned, I would not want her/him simply to sit and empathize. “Doctor, please also describe the process towards healing, and give me the waiver form to sign.”
Both/And! Pain is God’s gift pointing to the real issue. And search the NT. “Safe” in the sense of only sitting in compassion is not a NT word. God is the only truly safe One. Both/And, compassion and straight-talk out of love. To grow to the stature God has called us to, we must develop a robust theology of pain and suffering that invites us into a fuller life.
3. “We must go through certain stages of grief when we experience loss.”
This popular teaching has truth…and may have error. I concur with Jerry Sittser’s quote below. If the oil light in our car goes on, we can (1) cover it with duct tape (denial, indulging, bargaining), (2) smash the light with the hammer (venting anger), or park the car and refuse to use it (depression). These responses are natural, even legitimate responses. Positively, they send a signal that something is desperately wrong in my life now.
These responses are natural, even legitimate responses, although secondary that could prolong the process. Positively, they send a signal that something is desperately wrong in my life now. Pain is an indicator pointing to the problem, like the oil light.
However, they also undermine my spiritual life if I sit in them. They can divert us from God’s plan to free us. All are symptoms that may become coping devices to escape from candidly facing the real source of pain. When we go to a good doctor and tell her our symptoms, she identifies the cause of the symptoms. Then she focuses her protocol on healing the cause, although also prescribing something to relieve the temporary the symptoms.
When these 5-fold symptoms come (yes, “when”), don’t ignore them. Don’t stuff them. Don’t stuff them or explain them away. They are your genuine feelings at this time. You also have a choice how to face them.
Treat them as the problem with long-term care, and your process time will lengthen. Rush into God’s presence (and a few key people in community) and candidly face the roots of your pain, and you will move through as quickly as possible, with max LifeChange. Both/And/And.
Don’t beat yourself up if you indulge in symptoms for a time. Also, know these symptoms also will need to be processed. Never stuff them. And also know that symptoms divert us and prolong our healing process. Relentlessly pursue God’s solution (1 Peter 4:1-2)
My favorite model for raw honesty without sitting in a pity-party is Psalm 13 (with a shout-out to Psalm 73). Two verses of honest, raw lament, moving on to honest petition, and the last two verses of focusing on God-Reality.
The following quote is from Jerry Sittser (A Grace Disguised, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1995, 2004, pp. 60). Jerry Sittser lost three generations of females in one car crash. This is the best, most helpful book I have read to walk through the process of the heart-wrenching loss of pain in a healthy, honest and balanced way. For more depth on his experience with stages of grief, I would recommend all of chapter 4, pages 53-64.
“I did not find it helpful, therefore, nor did I find it true in my experience, to identify these various responses as ‘stages’ through which I had to pass on my way to ‘recovery.’ [I] have not moved beyond these stages but below them. I have learned that they were desperate attempts to avoid having to face the real problem, which I fought off as long as I could.”
Jesus was full of both grace and truth, and grace comes first.
This comes from chapter two in a larger book, Cycles toward Lifelong LifeChange. Bible Resources/Books by Jim FredericksThis is available under my tab “.”