New York Times editorialist David Brooks recently wrote about the power of being present for a loved one or friend in times of loss or trauma. A bereaved mother shared with him some insights she had gotten from her loss. She stated that the most comforting gift a person can receive is simply someone being present to their pain. Another is people refraining from phrases like “it was God’s will”, or “it’s better this way.” Christians sometimes assume, wrongly, that the idea that “It was God’s will” is comforting for the grieving or hurting. Not so, says Brooks: “Theology is a grounding in ultimate hope, not a formula book to explain away each individual event.”
I believe we fall back on phrases like “it’s God’s will” because we are at a loss for words. We think it will take away the pain if we can find just the right thing to say. But we underestimate, I think, the simple power of presence. If we reflect back on the times we felt the presence of God and remember the reassurance and peaceful hopefulness that required no words, we can begin to get the importance of showing up. We can never be equal to that spiritual presence, of course, but we can simply be there. We don’t have to say a word. Show up. And bring soup.