I had heard the word before, 'I know what you're going through' and while I never responded to that assertion my thought was, 'no you do not'.
This is a painful reality of those who are going through grief and suffering, no one really knows what we might be going through, except for God. For we are individuals, we are different from each other, even as close relatives may have many similar traits or cultural and social similarities, their characters are not the same, their genetic makeup is not the same, their inner structure is not the same, their thoughts are not the same, and their affections are not the same.
We all think different, we see things different, we love different, and even our afflictions are felt different, so it is impossible for someone to say they know what another person is going through.
Even expert psychologists, and psychiatrists pretend to understand the way a person thinks, yet even as that person discloses the inner secrets inside his or her heart, there are things which even he or she can not reveal about him or herself, because they do not know them fully. Only God knows our inner beings. Psalm 139: 13 says: for you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
When my father died in 1984 I thought my world had come to an end, and it was not just the love or separation anxiety which affected me, I was a proud and selfish young man who thought the world had amazing things reserved for me, and seen the deterioration of my dad, a man made of steel, was counter to my inner believes. I could not accept that life was so frail, and that we could just fall apart and then die. And especially not my dad, whom I've known to be tough, and restless.
Later that year I spent a week in a hospital, completely disconnected from reality, I had a nervous breakdown, I lost it, and I did not even know what happened. A Psychiatrist treated me, and tried to put me together, but He really did not know, because I really did not know what was going on inside me. Only years of inner reflection and meditation, and the hand of God has brought the truth out.
Then in July 2000 I lost my fiancée, in the blink of an eye, one moment she was here, and the next she was gone, forever. Life is so fleeting, so frail, and so unreliable, we can not even as a joke pretend we have any control over it. She was 32, a healthy young woman with an extraordinary drive and intelligence. A true go-getter, and a real entrepreneur, and then puff, she is gone.
And I thought I was ready for that, and I mourned for a week and then I went back to business as usual, except it was not as usual, because hiding your pain does not make it go away, it just inflates it, like a balloon, until it explodes somewhere within. I thought everything was perfect, and to everyone's opinion I had handled it magnificently, even I believed it was over, and then things started popping up, excessive drinking, extreme hyperactivity, relaxing my obligations, and so forth. Thanks God, for He had a better deal reserved for me, and Maria was around the door waiting to rescue me. For she was the one who indirectly saved me from the horrible grief I was going through, and of which I was completely unaware. Needless to say, this was all part of the perfect plan of God.
Fast forward to the present, I've been seeing people dying around me lately with unsettling frequency, and I keep praying to God, asking him where is the teaching in this experience, knowing full well that while my worldview has changed radically in the last 17 years, only a close encounter with death tells how you will react to it.
However, we as Christians, do have a significant advantage over those who are not Jesus' followers; a knowledge which no one else can tap into. For while a friend can be helpful in times of grief, and while a word of comfort might bring some peace to our heart. No one is truly able to see within us to say the right words, or to act the right way.
Yet the Lord knows our inner being, He knows us even before we were made, He already knew us before the world began.
Psalm 119: 16 says: Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Only God knows us fully and truly, only He knows our every thought, our every feeling, our every pain, only He is able to bring solace in the midst of suffering, He understands our pain, and only He can speak to our hearts with words of comfort and consolation.
Psalm 107: 13-14 tells us that when they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death. And that is because it's only by coming before Him and embracing His care that we will see the light
2 Corinthians 1: 4-5 says that He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
His word says that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, He says that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Because always the morning will come much faster when we hold on to Him.
I understand that my friend was trying to be kind when he told me that he knew what I was going through the day my fiancée died, yet I found his words patronizing and cliché, without substance at that moment. And while I did not respond to him, I would have preferred if he just stood there silent, if he just kept me company, not trying to comfort me or to cheer me up or to give me any kind of help, just his presence would have been enough.
God, on the other hand, when we are in this kind of hurt, we want to hear from Him, we want a big explanation, we want Him to unpack the whole plan behind this idea of taking our loved ones away, Yet usually, He is the silent friend who just embraces our heart, making it feel cozy and protected, so that our pain does not go in too deep. He is the friend who embraces us softly, letting His tears roll on our back as He weeps with us, as Jesus did in John 11:35, for He knows our pain, He knows our grief, and He suffers our suffering, for He has tasted firsthand how Sin and corruption has made this world fall apart, and how it has brought suffering to the life of His children
And so, He gave His only son, at the expense of His own suffering, to bring us comfort and hope, that one day He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (rev 21: 4)
May the God of all comfort bring you all comfort and Joy. Especially in the times of suffering.
Jose A. Luna
A Servant of Christ Jesus