Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sitting Shiva

Recently I have experienced hearing news from close friends of tragedy in their lives. Whether it's emotional abuse from a spouse, the separation of parents after 25+ years, or the death of a child six days before delivery; each causes deep pain in my heart. And, I find myself asking, "What do I say to these friends? How do I offer encouragement?" Even though my desire is to encourage, I find myself utterly speechless.

There is a Jewish word that I was introduced to about a year ago called "shiva." The definition of shiva is, "a period of seven days of mourning after the death of close relative." However, as I understand shiva from its historical perspective it was much more than just seven days of mourning. Friends of the family experiencing loss would come and "sit shiva" with the mourners, meaning they would come in and simply show their support by quietly sitting and mourning with them. It did not involve words or some attempt at easing pain by saying the right thing. One would walk in and just be. Just mourn. Just let the pain of the moment speak for itself.

Isn't that what we all want when we're grieving? Isn't it hard to hear the words that seem so utterly useless in the face of gut-wrenching pain? Yes, the words are usually true; and yes, usually in a matter of a few weeks or months it is easier and healthy to swallow them. But, in the midst of the extreme pain of the moment, don't we just want a friend that will acknowledge it for what it is and hurt with us? I've experienced that in my past, and it's the most refreshing thing you can imagine.

So, being speechless is okay. I wish with all my heart that I could go and physically sit shiva with each of my friends mourning losses in their lives. However, I am mourning for them now, and begging the Lord to grant them an extra measure of grace, peace, and comfort during this season of their lives.

May God bless you whether the season you are in is one of extreme joy or extreme pain. Jehovah God is the God of both, and He will see you through.

"Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe."
Psalm 61:1-3