“After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”” (John 11:11, NIV)
Our eyes met as we both exited the worship center. He is such a dear older gentleman whom I have grown very fond of the past few years. A tender smile always radiates from his face and he has an eagerness to plant a gentle kiss on my cheek, which I warmly reciprocate. Today, however, things were different. Recently, he was diagnosed with a life threatening prognosis and treatment is not promising. There were no words, but the familiar embrace and kiss on the cheek communicated all of my love for him. Struggling to maintain his composure, he began to weep quietly. A few seconds passed. Stepping back to walk away, his eyes gave evidence of the sadness and fear within. Placing my hand on his arm, I assured him, “I am praying for you…I love you.” This precious soul is struggling. He needs compassion and encouragement from those around him.
Recently, I submitted a contribution for an article on the topic of ministering to those who have lost a loved one or experienced devastating news. This people group is not really a minority at all. Life is a process because each day marches us closer to our last day here. Odd thought, but true. Everyone is on a “journey” in life. This journey has a very designated beginning- our birth, but an indefinite end.
Why then are we uncomfortable around someone who has been diagnosed with cancer or another incurable disease? Why is it difficult to physically embrace such delicate souls? Is it right to ignore them and just proceed on with our own rat race? For some reason the adage, “ignorance is bliss”, comes to mind. However, our inability to approach people who are “dying” demonstrates a lack of self confidence and assurance, along with a true misunderstanding of this “journey” we are all on.
A more accurate perspective is we are ALL dying. The Bible compares the death of believers merely to “sleep” (John 11:11), thereby encouraging us to see it through a different lens; one of courage and peace, instead of fear.
Don’t know what to say? Awkward silence is really not that awkward when love is communicated through actions. Sometimes that is all it takes when it comes to loving the dying. We live in a fallen world and death is a part of life. We are all on this “journey” together, we just have different paths that we will follow.
Keep things in perspective! Step out of your comfort zone and spend time with someone who may be experiencing loneliness and fear due to a dreaded prognosis today.