Things to Avoid
The last question that parents answered was, “What are some things for people to avoid as they seek to love you in this hardship?” “Please,” a mother asked, “don’t give advice or try to help us figure out why this is happening unless we ask for it.” Another said that “the biggest thing that people could avoid is constantly pointing out the sin. We know the sin. Our child knows the sin, whether they accept it as sin or not. Keep pointing to God’s Word. Keep pointing, in love, to what’s right, and as we and perhaps our child, learns and accepts what’s right, the wrong will be put away. Don’t tolerate the sin, but don’t rub it in the face each and every time.”
Other parents asked people to keep evading the issue. “Out of sensitivity, people may think I don’t wish to be asked about my son or how I’m doing. Yes, there is real shame connected to what we are undergoing (see Proverbs), but neither our grief nor our sanctification are intended to be for our benefit alone. Humility and dialogue are necessary to effectively comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted.” Another parent had a slightly different angle on the same issue: “When I was in the depths of pain and it was hard to conceal it at work, I decided to tell my boss that we were having some painful issues with our daughter and I’m having some hard days, but hoping to leave it at the door. He went on to tell me that they were going through painful things at church, and that I’m not the only one with problems. And this was said kindly—he’s a kind man—but I would have loved for him to ask a bit more of what we are struggling with that I might want to share, since I actually put it out there. I guess I would say that if someone who you know is hurting, opens up a bit to mention it, ask them if they want to share a bit, that you care, and even though you may not be able to help, you can pray. When someone opens up and gives you a lead into their pain, ask. It’s worse if you don’t and end up sharing your own grief instead.”
The pain is clear, isn’t it? One parent, who has also buried a child, quoted an old writer, saying that it is easier to grieve ten buried children than one living one.
But if you are a parent who is walking through this grief, is hope clearer to you as you read others’ stories? Stories not only of hurt and grief but also of perseverance, growth, wisdom, faith, and God’s sustaining grace? There is pain, but there is also One who promises to bring us safely to the place where we will be beyond pain’s reach.
These stories also make gospel opportunities clear. The need to love—parents and children—is real, and it is possible through Christ’s love in us. As the church, let’s be surrounding these people with that love and in love bringing them before the throne of grace and the One who also knows what it is like to lose a child. Let’s grieve alongside people. Let’s love the wayward with a love that seeks to bring Christ to them in the middle of the sin and suffering.
I’ll leave you with one mother’s closing thoughts: “I hope that these answers are somewhat helpful. Love us enough to point us in the right way. Love us enough to not focus on the wrong but keep pointing us to Christ.”