Some time last year I listened to a sermon by the former lead pastor of Saddleback Church in California, Rick Warren. He stated this "When comforting someone in pain, eliminate the phrase 'at least' from your vocabulary."
I couldn't agree more. The phrase is usually offered when trying to put a positive spin on a negative situation or outcome, many times it is coming from a genuine desire to give comfort but in reality what it usually does is highlight the fact that the speaker is quite ignorant about the situation at hand.
Saying 'at least you can try for more children' when a miscarriage occurs shows that you know nothing about the heartache felt when you lose someone you never got a chance to meet but loved with your entire being.
Saying 'at least you get a break' to someone in the hospital shows that you know nothing about the upheaval and trauma experienced when one is admitted.
Telling a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years 'at least you're out now' shows that you know nothing about loss of identity, the mental and physical trauma of prison life and the impossible task of piecing back together a life smashed to smithereens.
Why does it make us so uncomfortable to be around someone else in the throes of grief and pain? In an effort to ease our own discomfort we attempt to rush others as they process. We wish for there to be closure because we feel awkward, we don't know what to say and our interactions no longer feel fun. But are they really doing something wrong by taking a moment - or several?
John chapter 11 verse 35 was not included in the Bible simply to hold the title of the shortest Bible verse but to literally spell out to us that it is okay to grieve.
Jesus, whilst here on earth was fully man and He was fully God.
He felt all the emotions, feelings and pain of a normal human being but was still operating in omniscience and yet He was moved to tears when He saw the grief surrounding Lazarus' passing, a grief He also felt Himself as Lazarus had been a dear friend to Him too.
Why did Jesus, knowing that He was about to raise this man from the dead, not arrive on the scene with the equivalent of pom poms and a marching band declaring to all who could hear "It's okay, he will not remain dead!"?
Jesus went through the grieving process and expressed His grief through tears as an example to all of us that first of all it is quite normal and perfectly okay to feel sadness when a sad event occurs.
Too many Christians present a facade of being completely unbothered no matter what comes their way. This was not how God created us to exist. Every single one of us was created in His image and the Bible is very clear about God's feelings - see Zechariah chapter 1 verse 15, Matthew chapter 21 verses 12-13, Genesis chapter 6:6, Ephesians 4:30 for references.
Why then would He expect us to go through life feeling nothing or very little?
Secondly, there are very clear instructions in scripture that speak to journeying with one another, supporting each other, rejoicing and mourning with others as seen in Romans chapter 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."
There is no thing on this earth that we as God's children have been asked to do where we can't point to an example of Jesus enacting the same.
2022 was not my year
We are a few weeks in the year 2023 but it may still feel very new. If your life looks anything like mine you may feel as if you were hurled into the new year and are not very far from the spot on which you landed.
For many people life changed to great, almost unrecognisable extents. You may still be processing betrayal, the passing of a loved one, disappointment upon disappointment, for some the fact that no change occurred at all may be what grieves your heart the most.
You were certain that 2022 was the year of YOU. You would have rung in the new year married, promoted, healthier, with a new baby, in your own place not under your parents' roof, but it pretty much felt like you ended the year in exactly the same state in which you began.
Where do broken hearts go?
It was the late Whitney Houston that sang that line into popularity in 1988. With opportunities for heartbreak at every turn it certainly is a valid question. I want to encourage you today as you read thi:; God provided the answer long ago.
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit" Psalm chapter 34:18.
If you are still in the process of digesting events from 2022, know this: God is not rushing you to be okay. In fact, He is standing with open arms ready to rejoice with you and mourn with you if needs be. He is the answer to that age old question. None of us can predict what twists and turns this year will bring but we know for sure He will always be with us.