Missy, our tricolored Peki-Poo, stole our hearts as a tiny feisty one pound bundle of fur. As she grew from puppy to dog, she became quite the drama queen who found pleasure in defending our lawn by ferociously barking and chasing other unsuspecting dogs. Sometimes, it was downright embarrassing. I am no dog whisperer.
She wagged her bushy tail with grace and moxie. Missy had some of the most beautiful markings. She faithfully loved our family for fourteen years until cancer claimed her life. I will always be grateful to her for enriching my children’s childhood. Little did I know that she would be a source of great comfort during the most heartbreaking season of my life.
The world went black and crashed into a million pieces when my youngest son was killed in car accident in February 2006. I thought the weight of the grief would take me under, swallowing me whole. During my darkest days, I would lay across my son’s bed weeping, missing him terribly.
Missy would jump on the bed, snuggle up to me, and quietly lie there as my tears would fall upon her fur. The dampness of her fur bore witness to my pain. That sweet little dog was willing to sit in the middle of raw gut-wrenching pain. Missy offered me one of life’s greatest gifts:The gift of presence.
Sometimes the magnitude of a situation is so weighty, heartbreaking, and tragic that there are no words that can alleviate or fix the suffering of another.
We could all learn from Missy’s example. Sometimes, the most merciful gesture we can offer is to sit among all the broken, splattered pieces and silently hold a friend’s hand.
When Job’s life and health completely fell apart, his friends went to console him. Scripture says, “And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” ( Job 2:12-13).
Their silence spoke volumes of love and support.
But, when they finally spoke and tried to explain the whys of Job’s calamities, they further injured his already tattered heart as well as angered God.
There are no good explanations for most tragedies. Life holds an element of unexplainable mystery, especially as it relates to God and His ways. Tragedies put us face to face with the reality that we are not in control; that can be unnerving.
Friends, we must all ask ourselves these questions: Are we willing to be uncomfortable and sit in the tension of the unexplainable with a hurting friend? Are we willing to be vulnerable to their suffering? Will we offer our presence, not our explanations and theories?
If we faithfully sit in someone’s story long enough, God will give us the discerning wisdom to know when and what to speak. That is how we become His listening servants who bring His words of life and hope.
Author Henri Nouwen beautifully articulates this gift of presence: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
The gift of presence is a rare gift. May we be a blessed conduit of this rare offering…
Word of the Day:
Now they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. ( Job 2:13, NLT)
Father God, This fallen world can bring immense sadness. Teach us how to give the gift of presence to others. And, in our time of need, please bring those to us who will sit silently with us and hold our hand. Amen
Author: Maryanne Abbate