We can do it ... because His grace is sufficient.

Can we REALLY understand, empathize or have compassion for something we have never experienced ourselves?
We can try - we can imagine - but since we have never been there, walking that specific path of tragedy and heartache, we will not succeed.  It just isn't possible.

So wouldn't it follow that we need to have grace, abundant grace, for those who have never been where WE are?  They will not understand our hurts, our agonies, or our sorrow.  They cannot understand.
And that needs to be okay!

People are not in sin, 'wrong', or bad friends/family members because they are not as passionate, excited, devastated, or intensely sorrowful about something as we are.  Our passions and our pain are our own.  We cannot force them upon others, and we certainly cannot judge their character or their level of commitment to our relationship based on their responses.  We are not all the same. Responses are not WRONG.  They are just different.
Can we respond with apathy and a lack of compassion at times, thereby injuring someone we care about?  Of course.  But often it is not intentional so it needs to be addressed, forgiven, and overlooked.

I recently came across an article that I thought appeared to be a fantastic resource for my files, but about halfway through I found myself completely irritated with the author.
She was explaining how we should respond to/help/support a specific group of people.  Yet the entire article was self-serving. "We are about to experience something that will make us seem distant, selfish, absent and not ourselves. You need to love us, pray for us, seek us out, bring us meals, serve our family, take our children on dates, educate yourselves about what we're going through, and then - if you do all of those things and stick with us until the end - YOU are a good friend." (my abbreviated version)

What about the commands of Scripture to love, serve, pray for, encourage, and exhort ONE ANOTHER?  Starting a business, having a baby, moving, adopting, starting to homeschool, suffering through a long-term illness, preparing for the mission field ... none of these situations give us an excuse to be selfish.  Do they require unusual amounts of time and focus for a season? Absolutely!  Should we be patient with one another, seek to understand, and faithfully walk through difficult circumstances with our brothers and sisters?  Yes, we do!

But we cannot go through life assuming that everything is about US
we cannot go through life making assumptions and judgments about the motives of others.

When we are suffering or going through an intense life change, we do need understanding and compassion.  Scripture commands us to "weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn."  But our busyness and season of intensity does not give us the right to ignore the hurts and needs of those around us.  There is nothing in Scripture to support such thinking or behavior.
Just because her trial 'seems' much easier to bear than ours - it does render it invalid.  It is her trial - and it is overwhelming to her, regardless of how it compares to ours.

We cannot expect to receive compassion when we are not willing to give any.

There is a time and season for everything - but the lives of others do not have to STOP because we are overwhelmed with our own sickness, a new baby, an adopted child, marriage difficulties, or financial disasters.

We are called to MUTUALLY encourage one another in the faith.  To spur ONE ANOTHER on to love and good deeds.  There is no clause that reads, "unless you are totally overwhelmed - then you can just focus on yourself and let everyone serve and pamper you until you feel like loving others again."

I cannot speak to every trial, because I have not walked through all of them.  But I can speak on miscarriage.
I have absolutely no business getting hurt or offended because a friend does not remember the anniversary of Matthew's death, or even acknowledges his existence.  She was not the one who delivered a son who would never draw breath.  She was not the one who clung to her husband weeping with such intensity she thought her heart would physically shatter.

It was me.

My arms held my lifeless son.
My pain was real.
My tears flooded the pillow.

Not hers.
And it is unfair for me to place a completely unrealistic expectation upon a friend to understand my heart, my needs, and my pain at any given moment of any given day.
The Lord is the only one able to bear that burden.  The only one who can heal me.
And while I am clinging to His feet, seeking desperately to hold on because I am afraid to let go ... I am still a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.  My people need me.  They have their own sorrows, their own hurts, their own fears, and they need to be cared for as much as I do.
Mutually encourage one another in the faith ...
It is not an option to serve, love, encourage, and pray for one another.  It is a command.

We need to show grace - abundant grace - to our brothers and sisters.
The amount of friendships, and marriages, that are destroyed during times of tragedy and stress is frightening - and unnecessary.
Is friendship always perfectly balanced?  Of course not.  Sometimes one friend is drowning and the other friend must give everything she's got to rescue her and bring her safely to dry land.
But once on dry land, it is time to stand up, shake off the seaweed and the sand, and engage in life once again.

And we can engage in life in the midst of our darkest hour.
We can show love and compassion to others when our own heart is breaking.
We can encourage and pray for a hurting sister when we feel like our own world is collapsing around us.

Because ...

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  
II Corinthians 12:9

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