After watching this video last week, I took some material from it and wrote the following article for the mgpc newsletter.
I saw a testimony last week from Amber Sutterfield, a young woman who had experienced chronic sickness all her adult life, culminating in leukemia and bone marrow (stem cell) replacement.
While watching I was reminded again of how those who are part of the life of those chronically ill struggle to support the sufferers.
There were the reminders of unencouraging encouragements, such as: “Well it sounds like this is the best sort of cancer you can have”; “You can always adopt”; “It’s just hair, it’ll grow back”; “Well, at least you’re still alive.”
And there were the truly encouraging encouragements: “This sucks”; “I don’t know what to say”; “I can’t imagine what you’re going through”; “When you can’t believe, we’re believing for you.”
You may have heard some of these statements, you may have spoken something similar to those afflicted.
Some of you have gone through chronic illness, many have been spared. Most of you know and love folk who are unwell, some of whom will recover, and some not.
As a people who are to weep with those who weep, it is confronting.
I know I consistently stumble into trying say something that will make it better. As a pastor, sometimes others expect me to do that.
More and more I try to remember not try and fix something that God allows to remain.
Not to try and speak about a similar situation that someone else has gone through.
Not to try and offer an example of someone who is going through something worse.
Not to try and project about what God may do as a result of this situation.
Whenever I do fall into these I end up kicking myself later.
For those already suffering I don’t want to add a further burden of making them feel like a failure of a Christian because they don’t feel a certain way.
I simply want to affirm that the God who loves them is good and he’s no further away from them than he’s ever been.
Amber closed her testimony with these words:
“When you encounter someone in your life who is drowning… it may be physical pain or illness… it may be emotional loss. Whatever it is, that person doesn’t need you to fix it.
He doesn’t need you to have answers. He doesn’t even necessarily need you to preach truth to him in that moment.
He needs to see truth. He needs to see the goodness of God in your affection, the sovereignty of God in your presence, the faithfulness of God in your tears.
Just exist with that person and watch the Holy Spirit do exceedingly above all that you could ask or think.”
Friends, there is a time to speak and time to refrain from speaking. There is a time when tears say more than words and when silence is more eloquent that speech.
Don’t be afraid.
Show the presence of God’s love.