Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting

Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting

by Dave Furman

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Overview

Writing from the unique perspective of one who needs care on a daily basis, Dave Furman offers support, wisdom, and encouragement to those who are called to serve others who are hurting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433550034
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 08/31/2016
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 889,556
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Dave Furman (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which he planted in 2010. Dave and his wife, Gloria, have four children.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Grieving Your Loss in Another's Pain

Even though my pain is not the most apparent (I wear no casts or braces), it is relatively easy to spot. I can't use my arms normally, and so I have a loss of physical capabilities. I have to ask for plasticware at restaurants when their forks are too heavy for me to use. I am reminded every day that I'm not strong enough to pick up my children. I ask my six-year old daughter, Norah, to untie my shoes after I come back from exercising. Though my loss is easy to see, what about the loss my wife has experienced? It's often overlooked, but she's lost much through this trial as well. Unlike most other wives, she doesn't have a husband who can physically help her around the house. I can't take out the trash, move the furniture, pick up a wet towel from the bathroom floor, or make the bed. She recently handled a particularly messy potty training accident and joked that it might be the mess that tops all messes. She would know, since she has changed virtually every diaper for our four children. My wife not only doesn't have the physical help she needs from me, but she has to spend additional time helping me.

She also experiences the emotional and mental anguish that accompanies this type of loss. For example, after leaving the Opryland Hotel in Nashville once after a quick stay, Gloria opened my car door, helped buckle my seatbelt, and managed to move the big cart with all of our suitcases to the back of the vehicle. She loaded each bag into the trunk and then closed it up. Three women sitting on a nearby bench had been watching this scene play out. One woman called out to Gloria and told her that it's not right that her "good-for-nothing husband" just sat there and made her do all the work. My gentle and patient wife calmly replied that her husband was disabled, and then she got in the car before any tears arrived. Stuff like this happens all the time. We don't often walk through airport security together because we're tired of getting barked at by officials because I am not helping put the shoes, bags, laptops, car seats, and stroller onto the X-ray belt for screening.

You probably have your own scenes you've lived through — scenes where you think that if only people knew what was really going on, they might cut you some slack and help you. Anticipating and dealing with this kind of social anxiety can be quite distressing for a caretaker. As you care for and love the sufferer, there's a different kind of suffering that you experience that is often left unaddressed. If you are caring for someone who's hurting, then the first step you need to take is to honestly grieve the loss that you suffer. This first chapter will address how you come to terms with your own loss in someone else's pain.

Grieving Your Loss

If you're helping someone who is hurting, you have given up something to care for them. You have lost something yourself in the process. I lost the health of my arms, but my wife lost a husband with healthy arms. Caregivers face the temptation to believe the lie that their spouse or friend has nothing to contribute. They battle the exhaustion of constantly defending the ones they care for or worrying about people thinking ill of them. My children also deal with the loss of not having a dad who can do things like pick them up, stop them from tumbling while on their roller skates, or open a box of crackers. They have to learn patience with me, and they can become frustrated when I'm unable to do something that their mom could do for them.

My church staff, who frequently have to stop what they're doing to help me or to give of their personal time to help our family, also experiences loss. For example, Chris has been exceptional at caring for me and my family regarding our physical needs. Whether it's helping to get our car fixed or giving me a ride somewhere, he's always available, and there is a cost for him in my disability. He's happy to help, but it's certainly a different dynamic than having a pastor who is healthy enough to take care of himself and physically help others. You might find yourself in any number of difficult situations.

The one who loses a family member to cancer experiences deep pain and sorrow from the loss. So does the middle-aged teacher who takes repeated trips across the country to care for his aging father who is struggling with Alzheimer's and can hardly remember who his own son is anymore. A young mother spends most of her day trying to fight for joy as she cares for her disabled daughter and her house. A friend doesn't know what to say anymore after igniting the anger of her depressed best friend for the one hundredth time.

My point is that while we are all, by God's grace, privy to extraordinary gifts from his hands through these trials (like learning patience, etc.), we must acknowledge the pain of loss with our eyes wide open. Maybe you've thought that as a Christian you have to smile and pretend to be okay when someone asks you how you are doing. Perhaps you think that if you're grieving, then you're dishonoring God. This isn't so.

While an incredible preacher in London, Charles Spurgeon often battled depression and massive despair. On one occasion he was out of ministry for six months and had to leave the country. He was so depressed he had difficulty getting out of bed. He said that when depression would come upon him, he felt like a man who was fighting the mist; it was everywhere, and he couldn't hit it.

In some ways, our grief as Christians is amplified because our hearts of stone have been made hearts of flesh, and now we hurt for other people differently. You hurt for your family and friends who are suffering. It's imperative that you are honest about the pain that you are going through. Rather than just trying harder and keeping it to yourself, it's important that you grieve your loss and come to terms with your reality.

Jerry Sittser writes,

The pain of loss is unrelenting. It stalks and chases until it catches us. It is as persistent as wind on the prairies, as constant as cold in the Antarctic, as erosive as a spring flood. It will not be denied and there is no escape from it. In the end denial, bargaining, binges, and anger are mere attempts to deflect what will eventually conquer us all. Pain will have its day because loss is undeniably, devastatingly real.

Because of the realness of loss, the direction of your life has changed. The way you live and rest and work and go about your life is different now.

Grief is work, and sometimes it's very hard work. It can be overwhelming. H. Norman Wright, in his excellent book Experiencing Grief, says, "Grief is like the visitor who has overstayed his welcome." Grieving is a messy process, and you yearn for it to just go away. You don't know when a sunset or a trip to the pharmacy is going to trigger a memory that crushes your spirit. Sometimes even a moment of quiet will lead your mind to wandering to emotions you can't control. Grief comes and goes, and there is no way to schedule it in your day planner.

After my pain came back upon our move to the Arabian Peninsula, my friend John and I had a memorable phone conversation. John mentioned the story of King David mourning for thirty days after his child died. We both chuckled at the thought of someone taking thirty days to cry, wail, and mourn their loss publicly. It sounds ridiculous in today's society, but there was probably something very healthy about it. We still suffer today and mourn our losses, but we're often made to feel like we need to choke down our tears and grief instead of dealing with it in healthy and honest ways.

We all grieve and process loss in different ways, but it's essential that you don't stay in denial. You must make it known that it's difficult, that you're struggling. Many professional counselors have said that the single most vital component in healing from pain and loss is having the support of other people. It's important to share with others that you're grieving and going through difficulty. Don't walk this journey alone.

I wonder if this idea of personal grieving is new to you. Perhaps the idea of grieving your loss is uncomfortable and unknown. Maybe you're not sure what's entailed, why you ought to recognize your grief, or where you should start in grieving your loss in someone else's pain. In the rest of this chapter, I'll explain two ways you can do that.

Weeping Honestly

Often in the church Christians are taught that weeping is failing to trust God. There is seldom a place for sorrow and lamentation among Christians — no freedom to cry out to the Lord. However, the book of Psalms is filled with what are called psalms of lament. At least two of them show the psalmist crying out to the Lord without even a hint of hope intertwined with his grief.

Psalm 88 is one of these psalms:

O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

This is a dark psalm. Biblical scholar Derek Kidner says, "There is no sadder prayer in the Psalter." The psalmist, Heman, is clearly depressed and is hardly even fighting for hope. Psalm 88 shows that believers can be in darkness, and it's possible to pray and not see any relief. The psalmist is certainly praying, as you can see in verses 1, 9, and 13, but God doesn't seem to be giving him the help he needs. He feels that God is distant from him. And not only does he not see any help coming from God, he sees God as the source of his pain. He feels God's wrath upon him as he sits in the dark pit. Even his former companions have now turned against him. He's not being especially reverent nor is he being mushy and letting God know that he loves him. By the end of the psalm, he starts asking the "why" questions. All he can see as he looks back on his life is his affliction and suffering.

What, then, is the purpose of this psalm? Kidner helpfully identifies three key lessons from the psalm. The first is that it is possible that a believer will endure unrelieved suffering in this earthly life. The joyful ending of most psalms is a bonus and not a guarantee. The withholding of relief is not proof of God's displeasure or defeat. The second lesson is that our pain and suffering are not the final word in our lives. They are reminders to us that we wait for the redemption of our bodies on the last day. The third lesson is that this author, like Job, does not give up. The darkness will not lift, but the author still prays.

The psalm shows that believers can be overcome by darkness for long periods of time. They can attend church services, pray prayers, and be in fellowship, and yet find no improvement. Things don't always work themselves out quickly in the believer's life, but God is there. Tim Keller, in his excellent book, Walking with God in Pain and Suffering, notes that prayers like Heman's in Psalm 88 are an encouragement to us because they show that God didn't censor the prayers in Scripture. Christians do at times pray like the psalmist. Sometimes we are weak and falling apart. It's in moments of despair when all has been lost that we can learn to depend on God and not on other things. But we must, like the psalmist, be honest about our suffering with ourselves and others.

Finding Hope in the Loss

We need to weep honestly at the loss we've experienced, but it's a weeping that is fundamentally grounded in hope. A second way we deal with our grief is to find hope in our loss.

Psalm 51:17 says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

God will not despise a broken heart. David's life seems to illustrate this point. He went through so much pain that at the end of Psalm 39 he utters a prayer of desperation. David actually prays that the Lord would look away from him. In his desperation, he can see no other ending than death, and he tells God to just leave him alone.

David says,

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more! (Ps. 39:12–13)

The truth is, God does not look away from his people. However, David's prayer reminds us of a unique time when God did look away from someone. Keller points out that the only person who sought God and truly did lose God's face and did experience total darkness was Jesus. He really was forsaken by God. At the moment he died, everyone had betrayed, denied, rejected, or forsaken him, even his Father. Total darkness was indeed Jesus's only friend. Keller says, "It was Jesus who truly experienced the ultimate darkness — the cosmic rejection we deserved so that we can know the Lord will never leave or forsake us." Jesus experienced this forsaking on the cross: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Matt. 27:45–46). But even in the midst of his rejection, Jesus remained hopeful in the will of God. Even facing his death, Jesus could say in John 17:5, "And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed." Jesus rested in the plan that the triune God has set forth in the beginning — to glorify himself and save sinners by Christ's death on the cross. The abandonment Jesus experienced on the cross really is good news to us. Because Jesus was truly abandoned by God the Father, we will never be abandoned by God.

Compassionate caretaker, do you think he will abandon you now in the midst of your own genuine loss? No, he won't. Rest assured that because of Jesus, there is always hope, even in the darkest moments of your life. Jesus faced the cross and said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" so that you would never be forsaken (Matt. 27:46). Jesus is now your high priest who has gone through what you've gone through, and he did it to bring you to God. Jesus, in his death on the cross, shows his people the ultimate display of love. If Jesus went to the cross for you, he'll certainly be with you in your very real pain. Meditate on the following verses and let the promises of God encourage you and comfort your heart.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1:3–4)

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20–22)

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Being There"
by .
Copyright © 2016 David Tadeusz Furman.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11

Introduction 15

1 Grieving Your Loss in Another's Pain 21

2 Walking with God 33

3 Faithful Friendship 45

4 Be a Hope Dealer 59

5 Serve Like Jesus 71

6 The Power of God in Prayer 85

7 Hope for the Hard Conversations 97

8 Whatever You Do, Don't Do These Things 111

9 The Church's Gracious Pursuit of the Hurting 131

Conclusion 143

Afterword: A Letter from My Wife 147

Recommended Resources 155

Notes 159

General Index 163

Scripture Index 167

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“When Jesus said that he came to serve and not be served, he must’ve had in mind the many people who help Dave Furman. This remarkable story provides soul-strengthening encouragement to those who daily bear the burdens of people like me and Dave, people who just need a helping hand, day after day. I intend to give Being There to the many people who are daily there for me, a quadriplegic—it’s a must read for any believer who desires to follow Jesus in a life of service to others.”
—Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder, Joni and Friends International Disability Center

“As a long-term chronic pain sufferer, a pastor to suffering people, and a friend of Dave’s, I highly recommend this book. It is deeply personal, painful, and, above all, hopeful, and I am so glad he has taken the time to share his experiences. This book will point professionals, husbands, wives, and the friends of those who suffer from long-term chronic pain to the glorious truths found in the gospel of Jesus. This is not a book that offers easy solutions, but instead brings Bible-centered counsel to bear on the dark moments of life.”
—Mez McConnell, Senior Pastor, Niddrie Community Church, Edinburgh, Scotland; Director, 20schemes; author, Church in Hard Places

“As I think about the people in my world with chronic pain and ongoing difficulties, and about my awkwardness in knowing how best to walk with them, I can’t imagine a better guide than Dave Furman. Being There is filled with insight that only someone who has walked this road can provide.”
—Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher; author, Even Better than Eden

“As we see in the Scriptures, suffering can create confusion and consternation. How are we to think rightly about darker times? Even more, how can we minister to those suffering and see them (and those nearest to them) in all their humanity to support and encourage? Dave Furman has served us well with Being There. It is an immensely practical book that is saturated with the truth of God’s Word. I have read many books on suffering, and Dave has some unique insights that will encourage your heart. So, whether you are reading this for you, or because someone you love is currently struggling, I believe this book will serve to lift up your eyes to your loving Father who knows your situation and hasn’t abandoned you!”
—Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; author, The Mingling of Souls and The Explicit Gospel 

“Pastors: you will love chapter eight. It will supply your church with invaluable guidelines for helping others. The rest of us: we will be better friends to those who suffer when we meditate on Dave’s wise counsel.”
—Ed Welch, Counselor and Faculty Member, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation

“Too often, books are written for the hurting, and the person left out is the friend or family member who is helping the hurting. That’s why Dave Furman’s Being There will be an invaluable resource.”
—Deepak Reju, Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; author, The Pastor and Counseling and She’s Got the Wrong Guy

“Dave Furman has written an insightful and needed book for those who find themselves at a loss when it comes to helping hurting people. Writing from the vantage point of one who daily struggles with pain, Dave gives authoritative counsel to those eager to learn the art of being present and the skill of giving practical care.”
—JR Vassar, Lead Pastor, Church at the Cross, Grapevine, Texas; author, Glory Hunger

“Dave Furman has written a book that will be a huge blessing to those who read it and to the suffering friends God has given them the privilege of serving. This is full of pastoral wisdom, profound theology, and deeply personal experience. It is a beautiful book with a beautiful message.”
—Sam Allberry, pastor; author, 7 Myths about Singleness

“So much of the Christian life is a matter of simply being there—for those who are hurting. For many years Dave Furman has faithfully modeled being there for others while he himself has benefited from those who have been there for him. This gives him a unique perspective and wisdom in crafting a book about helping the hurting. I highly recommend it.”
—Tim Challies, blogger, Challies.com

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