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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

December 9, 2016

Helping those who cry to cry

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

In his poem "The Lover's Complaint" the English poet William Shakespeare declared that a grievance shared divides its weight (or burden), which in German is the proverb "Geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid". Human experience confirms the playwright's declaration.

We cope with suffering, grief and disappointment better when we are able to share it with others. Sharing involves at least two persons: the person who suffers and another person who shares in that suffering. In 1 Corinthians 12, verse 26 the apostle Paul tells us: "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it." And in Romans 12, verse 15 he exhorts us: "Weep with those who weep." Are we aware of this as one of our Christian responsibilities?

I am reminded of the little boy whose neighbor, an elderly man, had lost his wife. After her death the boy sometimes saw the old man crying. He would then climb onto his lap and just sit there a while. The boy's mom was surprised to see this, and she asked her son what he said to the neighbor when he was crying. "Nothing", the boy replied, "I'm just helping him to cry."

The shortest verse in the entire King James bible describes Jesus' reaction to the death of His friend Lazarus: "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Now Jesus knew that He was about to call Lazarus out of the grave, but nevertheless He shared in the grief that Lazarus' distraught sister Mary felt. The Jews who witnessed His reaction said: "See how He loved him!" (verse 36).

Some people think it helps to try and cheer up a person who is grieving or sorrowful. King Solomon's advice was different: "Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart" (Proverbs 25:20). Sometimes the best approach is to act like that little boy and just help someone cry.

In a speech before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859, Abraham Lincoln commented: "It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate at all times and situations. They presented him with the words, 'And this, too, shall pass away.' How much it expresses. How chastening in the hour of pride. How consoling in the depths of affliction."

King Solomon also said: "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to die; . . . and a time to heal; . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to danceā€ (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4). Those who grieve, are sorrowful or burdened, won't stay that way forever. A time to sing, a time to laugh and a time to dance will return. Until then, though, let's help those who cry to cry.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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