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Yesterday, I got ten times mores hits on my blog than usual – all because of someone’s tweet – – someone who should know better – but who said something so shocking that people came to see the tweet for themselves (the tweet had later been deleted). Quite a few people came to defend John Piper here. They told us we weren’t reading it in context. Others mentioned we are calling Piper, “Satan in disguise”, “truthfully hateful”, that the comments were a “blog stoning.” Wow. We were being uncharitable. One person told me on another blog that those who interpreted his message in an uncharitable way should repent and apologize to Piper. I don’t think so.
A large majority of Piper’s defenders on my blog and other blogs backed him up because they believed his message in Job – – that the message was the right one and one that the victims really needed to hear. It was the truth and God’s Word is where we should turn to amidst tragedies. But somewhere in all of that, there was a huge disconnect. The message caused hurt feelings. It was not comforting.
Who gets to decide what victims need to hear, Piper and his defenders? Why do they get to decide that their agenda, method of offering help is the right one? I even read comments like, “yes, Job’s message is the hard truth.” Really? What is that!? Is this the time to shove theology down someone’s throat? If their godly truth comment is going to hit a brick wall, what use is it?
I remember a time when someone told me the hard truth. I was 6 weeks pregnant and started bleeding. I went to the Naval clinic and the medic confirmed my worst nightmare – that I was in the process of miscarrying the baby. The words that the medic said have never left me some 20 years later. He told me I was having a “spontaneous abortion.” I could hardly understand what he was saying because my brain was thinking “baby” and why was this dude talking about “abortions?” I wasn’t thinking of having an abortion. I wanted a baby. In my emotional state, I forgot for a split second that the medical term for miscarriage was “spontaneous abortion.” I said, “spontaneous abortion?” And he replied, “Yes, the baby died.” Finally my brain caught up to him. And I cried. . . . . My baby had really died? . . . . . As in no more baby? . . . . .Gone? Just like that? . . . . . . That’s it? . . . . There’s nothing he could do? My head was spinning.
He told me the truth, but it didn’t register. And when it finally did register, there was no compassion. It was just hard and difficult truth – unbearable truth – truth that left me reeling. I felt completely alone even though there was a live, breathing person standing right next to me. How can that be? Because of no compassion.
A pastor’s job is to tell the truth and to have compassion. They are to model their life after Christ. Christ met people where they were, in their pain, and dealt with their most pressing needs first before anything else: Compassion with Shoes On
Many of you are aware that Rick Warren’s adult son recently committed suicide. Rick has been brutally transparent with his feelings on Twitter. His honesty has been very frank. Look at the tweet. It hadn’t posted 20 minutes and already had 462 retweets and 303 favorites. He really understands pain as he is walking through the grieving process. He knows what works and what doesn’t work. We can learn much from this tweet:
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Yesterday, we had the opportunity to learn from someone else. Mandy commented that she had experienced a devastating tornado, Hurricane Ike. Many people don’t hang around to read comments and I feel that Mandy’s comments deserved to be put in a post. Let’s learn from Mandy, someone who knows, how to really help victims of natural disasters.
Just out of curiosity… How many of y’all have personally been through a natural disaster and lost your home, your belongings, your community, your life as you know it?
I have. I lost my family home to Hurricane Ike. To someone who is deep in the midst of the trauma of a natural disaster, Piper’s first tweet is a slap in the face. I don’t care what his intention was or his background or the overall message of Job. To quote Job 1:19 in these circumstances was just plain wrong. I know that everyone here upholds the basic command of “respect the victim” when it comes to those who have experienced any type of abuse, whether its spiritual, physical, emotional or sexual in nature. We need to extend that command to ALL victims, including those who have been affected by natural disasters. Please speak words of comfort, of solace, of love, of compassion to us. Now is not the time for deep theological discussions. Now is not the time to find ways to defend men whose messages hurt the victims. Now IS the time to ask “How can I help? What do you need? How may I best support you and your community? May I buy gift cards for your family?”
Please everyone stop your in-fighting. Your spiritual leaders should be pouring out love and compassion- demand it of them. Now is the perfect time to live out Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself”.
Here is another comment:
JoeJoe and Jeff Brown, thank you. You get it. I am dealing with a lot of flashbacks right now and that tweet does not help. It surely does not help those who are in the middle of the destruction. If Piper had wanted to reference the entire book of Job, he should have. To quote just that verse was incredibly hurtful and the wrong thing to do.
I am begging all of you out there, please put yourselves in the places of those affected. Look at it from their perspective. Then ask yourselves, what is the appropriate response? How will my words and my actions be viewed by the victims? If there is the potential that any words or actions may hurt someone, find another way to express yourself. I have been the person sitting by my computer, watching the images of my devastated hometown, hoping against hope that things are okay. I have been the person searching the lists of the missing and hoping my friends and loved ones are safe. I have driven through an entire missing neighborhood and I have cried at the devastation. I have done all of this with the cruel words of strangers playing through my head, reminding me over and over that they possess some supernatural knowledge of God’s role in the tragedy and the cause of it. I know what its like to grieve with your neighbors, to beg insurance companies for assistance and be denied. And all the while my church home in college couldn’t be bothered to help beyond finding a Bible to replace the one my brother lost. That was the thing that hurt the most – the lack of love shown by my fellow believers.
This comment was so good:
Julie Anne, thank you. You get it. So many people don’t. So many times I was told by fellow believers “You need to smile more. God doesn’t like it when you frown. You still have your family and your health (which is a huge lie – everybody knew that my body was in bad shape). You shouldn’t be upset- it’s just material things. Don’t worry about it – everything will work out. As long as God is glorified, nothing else matters.” The list goes on. What people need to understand is that you cannot tell someone in this situation not to worry about things. You cannot force them to smile. You cannot offer vague promises that things will eventually get better. You cannot offer random Bible verses with a prolonged explanation of how it applies to the situation. You can hug them. You can listen. You can actively help them by meeting practical needs. Meet them where they are and love them where they are. Remind them that Jesus cried too and there is no shame in it. Walk through the stages of grief but don’t rush it. If need be, suggest professional counseling. Let them tell their stories as often as it takes until they can do so with peace.
There was one couple who taught me about a gracious response in the face of tragedy. My professor and mentor, Dr. B., asked me to share my story with him and his wife. They listened and asked questions and looked at the pictures of the devastation. They told me to stop listening to my church friends and leaders and that it was okay not to smile. It was okay to be mad at God. It was okay to ask Him the hard questions. And it was okay to still love Him even when I had lost everything. I poured out my entire story to them, even told how I couldn’t afford to buy food and necessities for my family cats now that they were living with me. When I got back to my apartment later that day I found 100 pounds of cat food and 100 pounds of cat litter on my doorstep with a note that said “Never forget how strong you are. We love you. -The B Family”. I broke down and cried for hours. For once the burden was lifted off my shoulders. I no longer had to live up to lofty standards set by my religious community. I didn’t have to search for hidden meanings in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy. And I didn’t have to skip buying groceries for myself to feed my cats.
There are some here who are so intent on defending Mr. Piper that they have forgotten that his words still hurt victims. Please learn from my story and focus more on ways you can show love to those who were affected. Never let a focus on theology or doctrine distract you from the need to simply love your neighbor. It might help to read Pastor Wade Burleson’s blog post on this subject.
*Julie Anne, I’m sorry for writing such long comments here. I hope I haven’t taken over your blog.
No, Mandy, thank YOU. I think you taught us a thing or two. Now may we be better ambassadors for Christ and truly love others in the midst of tragedy.
By the way, I encourage my readers to read Wade Burleson’s excellent article Mandy mentioned. He’s there in Oklahoma and his church is being the hands and feet of Christ right now. God bless them!
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