The Command to Weep

“Jesus wept,” two words that change everything (Jn 11:35). God hurts. God grieves. God weeps. Jesus is proof. When the Triune God meets pain he does the opposite of flee, he absorbs. He enters the fray. Paul urges followers of Christ to take the some posture. When we encounter those who weep we are commanded to weep (Rom 12:15). Weep is an imperative in this verse.

In striving to mimic the compassion of Christ we must grow comfortable walking the road of pain with others. We need to be students, ever developing a framework for engaging grief and honing tools to help our neighbors.

Dr. Alan Wolfert, founder of the Center for Loss, developed a model for grief engagement called “companioning.” The model is insightful and aligns well with the spirit of biblical compassion. Humility is the foundation of the eleven principles that guide the framework.

  1. Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  2. Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
  3. Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  4. Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  5. Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
  6. Companioning is about walking alongside;it is not about leading or being led.
  7. Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling up every moment with words.
  8. Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  9. Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  10. Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
  11. Companioning is about compassionate curiosity; it is not about expertise.
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6 comments

  1. I liked that compassion and companioning beging with the same 5 letters. Our presence with the right heart and mindset is the most important gift we can offer those experiencing crises.

  2. Debbie, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the blog! I agree with your thoughts. Presence seems to be the most helpful thing we bring to grief and pain. Companioning is definitely a form of compassionate engagement as you mentioned. I really appreciate the humble learner posture of the model. It helps remove the self-imposed pressure of having to have answers.

  3. I also really like the way companioning removes the pressure of having solutions and answers. That pressure can be a reason to avoid getting close to one who is hurting. I’ve always tried to follow the model in Job where his friends did best when they just sat and mourned with him. They entered into judgementalism and error when they tried to explain and fix his problems. However, I feel like I need to add (maybe partly because of my driving desire to explain, control and fix things) that there is a place for advice and counsel. If someone is suffering as a result of their own destructive behavior, for example, then I feel I should lovingly address that. I know I need that in my own life at times. However, I have also been in situations where well-meaning people have tried to explain and fix my problems and all I perceived was criticism instead of the support and encouragement I needed. I love the companioning concept, I just don’t want it to be devoid of intellect and discernment. What do you think?

  4. Rob, I agree there is always a balance that we need to find. I think the companioning posture is a great way to engage with grieving individuals and may be the entry point for the type of conversation or counsel you are talking about. I like your point on Job, the time for silence was interrupted by the friends and they ended up compounding his pain. I agree, there is a time to break the silence and a time to counsel. The companioning model allows the one in grief to set the pace. It seems that giving space and knowing when to be silent gives credibility when it is time to speak. Any other thoughts?

    1. I agree with your entry point statement and would just add that, upon reflection, there is wisdom and humility in the companioning concept – which may not be immediately or intuitively evident – just as there is with appropriate counsel. Having been softened by some hardships, I can now much more appreciate the heart of a person that wants to support and encourage me in my difficulties than one who wants to analytically give me advice.

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