Leaving the Wounded Behind

10:06 AMHeather

I may sound harsh today.  I'm not sorry.  Because I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone, and what I feel prompted to say is of vital importance.  

Here's the problem.  We stink at sticking it out with the hurt and the wounded in the ugly of life.  I mean, we really stink at it.  As a culture.  In general.  And within the walls of our churches, it doesn't tend to be much better.  We seem bent on living out an image of holiday Christmas cards and happy movie scenes.  We are okay with a quick bit of drama or heartbreak.  But we want it resolved quickly like in a thirty minute television show.  

Our noisy, information age has created a new plague of Attention Deficit Disorder that seems to take life in short sound bytes and preferring nothing more.

So, when the ugly and hard in life just drags and drags, we jump ship.  Leaving the wounded behind.  

 
This was emphasized last night when I got a message from a friend.  She was expressing to me why she was leaving social media, at least for a little while.  

It's become too painful.  You see, her little family was shaken to the core when her teenage daughter attempted suicide.  She survived, thank goodness.  But the faith of my friend's husband did not.  And their family has stumbled and struggled, weighed down at times not just by their circumstances but also by the callous and unloving words of "Jesus followers." 

And as this family has wrestled to press on and build new normals with a child who struggles with mental health issues, the reaction of Christians in their midst has left the husband walking away from the Jesus these people claim.  Because he sees no love.  He sees no grace.  He sees no compassion.  

Instead, the initial outpouring of love has morphed into pointing fingers and frustration and an uneasiness of those who just seem "over it" and so they have abandoned these hurting people.  The wounded have been left behind, licking wounds on top of the already deep wounds of their circumstances.  Friendships have been lost.  Invitations have quit coming.

And my friend can no longer sit on social media and see their friends moving on without them.  Gathering without them.  Abandoning them to their pain.  

Unfortunately, I think it's a normal response.  Heck, I tend to do it myself. When a crisis hits, we tend to surround the people hurting.  Showing up to sit with them and deliver meals.  Or praying for them.  But, in our overstimulated existence, we quickly lose interest.  And we move on to the next big story or crisis, forgetting all about the wounded we've left behind. We seem to ignore the question of "where are they now?"

I've been on both the receiving and giving end of this one.  I have lost friends in seasons because my grief and pain was too much for them to bear.

I got it.  Sorta.  Listen, it was uncomfortable for me.  It was suffocating and overwhelming.  And it was so dark.  I wanted to bail myself.  So, I could sorta understand it feeling like too much for others. And I was jealous that they could just walk away and act like it hadn't happened.

But, there was also this part of me that wanted to scream, "HEY!  IT'S NO PICNIC FOR ME EITHER!  The least you can do is stick around."

In all the years since, I've come to see that it is a rare treasure to find a friend who will just sit with you throughout your painful seasons.  Who take seriously Jesus' command to bear each other's burdens.  Who persist in prayer cover and just being around.  Who don't try to explain God in some cliche that actually becomes wounding.  Like Job's friends as he sat in his grief.  Oh, they threw some doozies at him.  I've been there.  I've been told my dad died because we didn't pray with enough faith.  More than once.  By actual friends.  

Ouch.  Yes, that smarts. 

Grief and pain and tough seasons are horribly dark and lonely places to be.  And when someone is stuck there, for whatever duration, the best and most amazing thing anyone can do is actually quite simple.

Just sit with them.  Just stick it out.  Promise that while you can't take away their pain or fix their problem, you aren't going anywhere.

And then DON'T.  Don't allow the next thing to distract you.  Set reminders on your phone.  Keep a large chalkboard prayer board in a prominent place with their names on it and actually pray for them regularly.  Letting them know when you do.  

As uncomfortable and draining as it may be, make a commitment to not leave the wounded behind.  Because when you are hurting and it just seems endless, having friends flee is salt in the wound.

If we are going to attach our names to that of Jesus, then we simply have to get better at this.  We cannot tolerate being someone who leaves the wounded behind.  That doesn't mean we take on too much and wear ourselves out and try to fix it all.  

It means we suck it up when it feels uncomfortable and your friend is crying.  Again.  And we hand over a kleenex.  No words necessary.  In fact, sometimes that's much preferable to well intentioned but callous words.

If you need words, hey--news flash--there's this amazing book full of encouraging words!  Words that are powerful when they are prayed and words that are powerful when they are shared. 

Words like,

Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him." The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:22-25

Or,

He has sent me to provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of despair.
Isaiah 61:3

Or,

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

It's a heroic effort, indeed, to run onto the battlefield and pick up the wounded and stay with them to be sure they are cared for.  It's not for the faint of heart and it's not easy.  It's not easy to choke back your own comfort and ease and to commit to keep at it when you have a hurting friend.

It's not easy, but it is simple.  Because it's not our job or our calling to heal them or fix them or make it all right.  Our simple task is to stick it out with them.  To carry them to the Ultimate Healer, praying for them and letting them know that.  To reach out regularly and to stay the course with them.  To ask the Lord to bring them to mind so you don't forget to pray for them or reach out to them.  To be mindful that traumas in life have lasting effects.  And to be willing to just pour out love and grace on them--and maybe silence--as long as you stay present in their lives.

This is what can set us apart.  As the people of God.  When we tend to our wounded and continue to do the harder thing.  

Stay in the trenches with them. 

Laying our lives aside, our agendas aside, our comfort aside, for the sake of another.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16

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