2016-10-18 - What People Say ~ God is Good All the Time
And What the Bible Says About It
As you all know by now, this series has been published in the hope of encouraging each one of us to think before saying something, when we are with people going through crises or any kind of difficulties. Sometimes the best litmus test is to imagine that we are in their situation. Then we can ask ourselves if it would truly help the patient/victim, or if we are saying it more to help ourself to feel less uncomfortable. Remember, as they teach in Stephen Ministry© training, often the best thing that we can do is to just be with the person. Trust me; people in crisis don't expect you to say anything profound or magical; they know that you can't "make it better," and they will just appreciate your supportive presence and listening, validating ear more than anything you can say.
I saved this one for last, because for both Richard and myself, this was the one we have heard the most often, the one that we tired of the most quickly, and our "least favorite" saying that we have encountered - both for ourselves and others. We understand that people are trying to give God praise, as well as help the patient celebrate the little victories. And in fact, Richard and I have been intentional about that all along, celebrating every "little step" of improvement - such as moving toes again, bending a finger a little farther etc. That is just the way God made us. Each improvement was/is important. But when someone is in the middle of a painful and stressful situation, possibly the most difficult of his/her life, these oft-repeated words, "God is good," can start to sound rote and tiresome, and even moreso when followed by "all the time." In fact, at a previous church, the congregation repeated this saying every single Sunday morning. The pastor would say "God is good," and "we the people" were to respond "all the time." If the pastor didn't think we were enthusiastic enough, we would be forced to repeat it until that pastor was satisfied. As you can imagine, this quickly became tiresome and meaningless. By the end of my tenure there (Richard left over a year earlier, but I had commitments), I found myself busying myself with my music (I was the pianist/music director) during these responses, so as to have a distraction.
It is true that the Bible teaches that God is always good (see Psalm 25:8), even though events are not always good. But there is a time and a place for anything that is said. In this series, I haven't wanted this to be "about us" (Richard and myself), because that is not the purpose of these devotionals. We have heard these things said to many friends, family members and acquaintances. And it is for future patients / victims that I write these devotionals, in hopes that we will all stop to think about what we are saying, before we open our mouths. But it might help you to understand, if I "flesh it out" by sharing a day of our own, just by way of example.
As I mentioned, we heard this saying the most often. In one of these instances, someone said this quote to us, when Richard was again able to hold a piece of paper in his hands. Yes, this was another step, and we were incredibly grateful for each tiny step of recovery. However, due to being unable to sit in a wheelchair more than 2-3 hours per day, he was still basically living in a bed, unable to lift his legs to put on his own pajamas, unable to lift his back while I gave him a bedbath, unable to eat but about 1/5 the normal amount due to a partially-paralyzed tongue, unable to do basic hygienic functions, my own back was in excruciating pain from using the hoyer lift and from the garbage can (which a friend soon helped with), not to mention my being slapped in the face with a heavy garbage can lid as I struggled with it and the garbage that the wind picked up and kept moving just out my reach - and Richard was unable to function normally as he was right before he suddenly was struck down - all this in a given day. So while we were and are very thankful for what he could do and can do, we were also still in the process of struggling with why God let this happen at all - why Richard - who was doing the best he could in serving God and his fellow man - suddenly couldn't do amy of his normal activities except for handling silverware, and he lost that function briefly. Guillain-Barre, like many other serious illnesses, can be overwhelming and depressing,and unless a person has experienced or walked through something like it with a loved one, they probably can't fully understand - though in our case, several good friends did a good job of learning about it and walking by our sides. Richard and I made efforts to think positively about each of the improvements, but continuously hearing "God is good all the time" did not help us one bit; in fact, the words were frustrating and discouraging, because when someone says that, it usually feels like an invalidation of the challenges the person is still experiencing.
This is something else to remember, when we are walking through a difficulty with someone. Questioning why things happen, occasionally feeling "down," and at times being challenged by everyday difficulties - these do not mean that a person has an ungrateful spirit; it simply means that the person is human, and is dealing with something very difficult. Under these kinds of circumstances, liches such as this one can actually make someone feel alone in their situation. As Richard would say to me after hearing that phrase, "it's you and me against GBS." And so it was!
I would like to close out this series by sharing something that my fellow writer Rodney shared with me. We don't know the author, but if anyone does, please let me know, so we can attribute the acronym to him/her. This is good advice, no matter the situation. In these types of situations - crises such as devastating fires, catastrophic accidents, life-altering illnesses etc., most of the, the best thing we can do is simply offer a ministry of presence - ourselves. And before we speak, it would always be a good idea to mentally ask ourselves:
Janice P. Moser
All scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.