Last night in Middle school we kicked off the night with some board games, hang out time, and our usual assorted snacks. I was reminded again how the shared experience of middle school is defined by Fortnite, and laughed with some of our ladies playing “what do you meme.”
Before jumping into our lesson we took prayer requests and spent some time praying for parents who were traveling and for a good week :)
The new series we are in should carry us through the end of the year, and focuses on being a good friend to those who are struggling. We kicked off by talking about strong emotions and how being a friend when someone is experiencing “big sad” (as the students put it,) is hard. I asked if anyone was willing to share about the most sadness they had ever felt and, as expected, all the answers revolved around the loss of a family member or pet.
Grief is incredibly complex, even for adults, so we talked about some of the things that helped and didn’t help those students in the midst of their grief. Sometimes people with good intentions say things that don’t really help a grieving friend like “God needed an angel!” or “Everything happens for a reason!” or “I know exactly how you feel.” Those things may come from a place of care or compassion, but they often don’t do anything to meaningfully help a person who is grieving. In order to learn how to actually help, we cracked open the book of Job.
Job had it all - he was wealthy, happy, healthy, and blessed with a large family, many animals, and a lot of land. As you probably know, it doesn't stay that way, though. Job loses his animals to thieves and death, his children to a natural disaster, and his wife tells him to “give up, curse God, and die.” In the midst of all the grief he was feeling, his friends came and in chapter 2 we read about how they cared for him.
Job’s friends worked together to comfort him, sympathized with him, showed up for him, and empathized with him. We talked about the difference between sympathy and empathy and how Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar went beyond feeling bad for Job, and they entered into his sadness with him by tearing their robes and pouring dust on their heads. They proceed to sit in silence with Job for a whole week because they knew that there were no words to help their friend, and they offered simple presence instead.
While it might not be helpful or practical for us to tear our robes and pour dust on our heads in today's culture, the gift of a listening presence for our friends who are grieving certainly is. As we moved into debrief groups we made it a bit more practical and brainstormed ways that we could offer that kind of help. Something like a text or a call to let your friend know you are thinking about them and willing to listen is powerful, and remembering to be patient and have grace for people as they grieve is important.
We will continue this series next week by talking about how to help those who are struggling with loneliness! One final reminder that this upcoming Saturday is our Walk Thru the Bible event! We would love to see you there!
Thanks for checking in and have a wonderful rest of your week!