As we made our way home from school, my littles began noticing the plethora of hockey sticks decorating the front porches of many of the homes in our neighbourhood. I explained that people had put out their hockey sticks for relay a message to Humboldt: "We're with you."
Another why followed and I explained that when you're hurting, the biggest thing is you want to know you aren't alone.
In pain, our first need is presence.
My temperature would rise when people when they would say things like, "I think your dad got sick so that..." While well-intending, no one wants to hear your logical conclusions for their suffering. It’s not helpful.
Truthfully no one on earth knows exactly why we had to watch him deteriorate to nothing, and why he won't get to be at my little sister's wedding someday, and why he won't get to hold most of his grandchildren, and why my mom will be alone, and why the church will be without their pastor and I will be without my dad.
If you want people to want to punch you say, “I know exactly how you feel." You haven't walked a mile in their shoes no matter how similar your shoes appear.
I will tell you, there were some people I welcomed, and I pray that you and I will be those people.
People who were simply with me.
They didn't try to solve my problems or explain away my sorrow. They simply chose to cry with me. Or simply acknowledge that my family had suffered a terrible loss. Some even cried for me when I couldn't cry anymore. As I watched the Humboldt Broncos chaplain deliver a message at the memorial service, (worth every single second of the 17:44) he was very clear: I don't know why. But we're with you.
With is powerful, because presence is powerful.
He quoted Psalm 23, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me." From the beginning, God provided for our greatest need in times of pain: His presence. We eventually wrestle for perspective but in the moments of raw pain, we have the presence of a Sympathetic Saviour who gets our pain because He entered into it and experienced life, death and trailblazing the way for us to rising again.
If you're wondering what kind of a Saviour Jesus is, John 11 will tell you.
One of Jesus' friends (Lazarus) was on his death bed, so his sisters sent for Jesus. Surely He would come and save the day and save their brother. Jesus gets the news and declares, "This sickness will not end in death but it is for the glory of God," and in a puzzling move, He doesn't go?
He waits for two more days. When He eventually does go, it's not looking good. In fact, it's looking like it's too late. Lazarus has been dead for four days. Jesus converses with the sisters who are grief stricken over the loss of their brother and He asks if they believe He is the Resurrection and the Life, and then the part that gets me every time:
"When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved... and then... Jesus wept."
God in the flesh, about to do a miracle and raise a dead man to life, took the time to hurt and weep with His hurting friends, like any good friend would. The fact that the power and perspective was right around the corner didn't stop Him from taking the time to be present in their pain.
When I have no perspective, I have the Presence of my sympathetic Saviour, the only one who does know exactly what I'm going through. And even though He knows the healing that will come, and the miracle He is about to do, He still takes the time to be angered and deeply moved over the pain His children are experiencing.
So today, I weep with Humboldt and I pray for Humboldt, that those drowning in pain, will first experience the presence of God.
To my believing friends who are on the front lines, with someone who is suffering unimaginable pain, remember this, “We are the gospel message that many will read. Often people can’t begin to understand the love of God until they have felt love from a real live person.” (JD Greear.)
Ask God today, how would you have me respond? What would you do? Then go be His presence as He leads you. I know you'll represent Him well.
When we arrived home, my biggest little man went through the house frantically searching for his foam hockey stick. He didn't care that it wasn't a real hockey stick, his little heart just wanted to say, "We are with you."
Even though you walk through the valley of darkness, Humboldt.... we are with you and so is He.