There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.”
Winnie-the-Pooh creator, A.A. Milne, was cited as the author of this little vignette in several places online, but I couldn’t find an authentic reference. Whoever wrote it, it’s a poignant reminder that sometimes the best thing we can do is to sit quietly and say nothing at all.
A couple of weeks ago a man went on a killing spree. It was just outside of the quiet town in Nova Scotia where I grew up. He started shooting and setting fires until 22 people had died brutal deaths. It was one of the largest mass murders in Canadian history. What do we do in the wake of such evil?
After the initial shock of the events here in Nova Scotia, I felt prompted to write… something. My first instinct was to talk about how real God’s peace and comfort was for me in my own recent tragedy. I didn’t suffer the same horrible situation as these Nova Scotia families, but I hoped that somehow I could help see that same peace of God extended to them.
Experienced pastors advised me to wait until the initial shock had abated and emotions were less raw before talking about God’s peace. If someone is angry at God, telling them how comforting He can be is unlikely to ease their pain. I am grateful for their wisdom.
As Christians we are called to love others. We are to put their well-being before our own and do to them what we’d want them to do to us. (John 15:12, Matthew 7:12)
When Pooh was feeling down, Piglet asked him if he wanted to talk about it. We can do the same for those who are hurting. Ask them what they want. If someone wants silence, give it to them. If they want to talk and for you to shut up and listen, then listen. If they are looking for reassurance of God’s love and presence, give it to them. Before you presume, ask them if they want you to pray with them.
Most importantly, be there for them. Let them know they’re not alone. We can still love people even when we can do nothing to ‘fix’ their pain.
As Christians, we want to share the love of God with the hurting. That’s what He calls us to do. But that doesn’t mean there are not times that we should just be quiet. If someone we love is hurting, God may want us to just be silent and be there for them. Sometimes that’s the best way to show His love. Maybe that’s the only way He’ll ever ask you to share with that person. God could have someone else in mind to talk with them more specifically about Him when the time is right. Be open to share God’s peace, but understand that loving someone may mean waiting until they’re open too.
The idea of praying for people in times of crisis has been taking flack lately in our culture as an empty act, but for those of us who have experienced the presence of God in their pain, we know it’s far from empty. Prayer is powerful. Keep praying. While you’re doing so, look for ways to be the answer to your own prayers.
During the current pandemic when we are restricted in what we can do, monetary donations may be our best option to show love. It may feel impersonal and detached, but it can be extraordinarily helpful. For the families in Nova Scotia, official gofundme pages are listed at www.novascotiaremembers.ca.
Christians have a history of being in the thick of tragedy, doing what they can to alleviate suffering. I pray we continue this tradition and play the part in God’s Kingdom here on Earth that He intended us to play.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
In Part 2 we’ll talk more about the peace and comfort God wants to give us in times of suffering. He was very tangibly there for Kimberly, me and the kids as we navigated her illness, death and its aftermath… providing the peace, the strength, the hope and joy that can only be found in Him.