Recently, I read a heart-impacting post from a guy on a social media platform. The death of someone close a while ago, being sick of trying to understand God in relation to those events, questioning God and everything. The part that hit me hard was his experience with Christians and their platitudes and Bible verses. I’ve been there.
He is not alone. In many ways:
Many guys have gone through crap, bludgeoned by life, laid flat out on the mat. Many still are- death, divorce, addiction, failure. Sometimes those seasons last a significant amount of time and take a significant toll on our belief system. Some guys go through multiple episodes of being laid out flat on the mat. Often, holding on by a fingernail is the most accurate description of faith at that moment.
Most guys in these circumstances question what the Bible says about God, the goodness of God, the promises, the statements. It’s the differences in intensity of the questioning that throws people. I spent many days, nights, weeks, months, seasons, truly questioning whether a good God or a God that wants good for his children would allow the death of a mother of a 2-year-old little girl. Any angle you examine it, it’s not good.
Several Christians, some well-meaning, some just ignorant, some without any emotional intelligence offer advice, verses, platitudes, shallow statements, and empty promises regarding loss or difficult times. Most of the time, it’s regardless of whether they were asked, whether they have a relational context to speak, or regardless of the phase the recipient is in.
There are many times that I’ve seen and even experienced that somehow Christians are made to feel like they can’t feel what they feel. At least that’s the message well-meaning Christians send when their first response is; here’s a verse, or this is why you should feel different, or here’s what's wrong, etc. We are made to feel that we are wrong in the pain and anger that we feel. We are not.
Here’s my advice to those who want to respond to a Christian man in pain:
Know the suicide hotline number and give it if your gut tells you to.
Don’t speak unless spoken to. Especially if you have not walked in those shoes unless you’re a counselor, pastor, or mentor; in other words, you have some training. Even then….
Fully understand emotional intelligence and recognize that there are phases during which your words, even if true, will do more harm than good. Less is more. Do not be afraid of silence.
Recognize that most of what is said by you is said at the wrong time and with no relational context to be saying it. You are not going to fix it, and by it, I mean the pain, anger, and questioning.
The best words are: “dude, this sucks.” That’s it. The second best words are “Man, I don’t know.” Rarely should this word ever be uttered after the above phrases, and that word is “but.."
Develop relational context with dudes before they get knocked to the mat. Then you have at least some credibility to speak. You need to have thick skin.
If you have prior relational context, do not leave that Christian brother behind.
My words to those in pain, angry, and laid flat on the mat after being bludgeoned by life:
Wake up the next day, and the next day, and the next, and the next… etc……
Feel what you feel for as long as you want to feel it. Let no one tell you otherwise.
Tell God exactly the way you feel- don’t hold back, do this as often as you want, as loud as you want, and be freakin’ honest. He knows anyway, so don’t hold it in as some might suggest is proper.
Read Psalms. I don’t care if you disagree or get disgusted by everything you’re reading. Just do it.
Go to church. Again, I don’t care if you don’t sing, if you don’t open your Bible, if you sit there with an attitude of contempt. Just do it.
Find a bro or two with thick skin who will not leave you behind.
Understand that you will have to get back up, but you don’t have to alone.
Always remember that there is ALWAYS someone going through something worse.
Don’t be a jerk to those who have always loved you.
When you are on the other side, return the favor.
I’ll leave it here. For those brothers in the midst of pain and anger and for those brothers wanting to help, remember this: You do not need to have it all figured out to begin moving forward.
Psalm 77: 1-9 (NIV)
“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hand and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God; and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”