Yesterday morning I was prepared to write about being a sacred place where others could come for healing, encouragement, and restoration. I had no idea Robin Williams committed suicide yesterday. I didn't hear the news because all evening I was sitting with a friend who is going through one of the most difficult times in her life. I also rushed out the door this morning with two friends on my heart who were also going through a great deal of suffering. It was late morning before I found out Robin Williams passed away. Robin Williams, the great comedian? The one who warmed my heart in Patch Adams. The man who challenged me, through Patch Adams, not to just be a professional, but a professional who cared for people.
I've read a lot of posts on Facebook about how we (those still living) never know what a person is going through on the inside. I've read that a person can be smiling on the outside, but hurting on the inside. While this is certainly true for some, I find many who are hurting tell us they are hurting. In their efforts to reach out, we often shut the door on them. Sure, the first time or two we listen and tell them we are going to pray for them, but then they become "needy." I don't know how many times Christians have warned me to stay away from a person because they are "needy" or "too clingy." I remember one time thinking, "Why wouldn't they be needy?" I thought this because we both (the commenter and I) knew the horrible situation our sister was in. I couldn't imagine the pain she was going through. However, this person believed our sister in Christ was being too "needy."
While I believe that we should never replace God by trying to be the Savior, I do believe we should be a place where those who are hurting can come. A sacred place. Our sisters and brothers (or anyone) should be able to come to us when they are hurting. A place where they can come to lament, weep, be angry, vulnerable, and real. Our sisters and brothers (or anyone) should be able to come to us, when they are hurting.
I once heard someone say, "If you can't be transparent in your church, you are in the wrong church." Pain is real. Pain can sometimes feel unbearable. Pain can make you feel like you can't go on another second. It happens to believers and nonbelievers alike. Yet, I hear many Christians criticizing those who are hurting by telling them to have more faith or telling them they should just get over it. Or maybe even worse, not say anything at all. They don't even have time for them.
Relationships are hard. Discipleship is messy. Love takes sacrifice. But I believe it is what Jesus has called for us to do! Jesus had compassion for others. He cared for those who were hurting. He spent time with people. One of my favorite healing stories in the Bible is in Mark 1:40-45. A leper, an outcast of society, came to Jesus for healing. I know because of his condition, no one had time for him. No one offered him a place of belonging. A place where he could feel loved and accepted. No one offered him a sacred place. But, when Jesus saw him, the Bible tells us that he was moved with compassion. Jesus reached out and touched him! He was willing to heal him.
The people we see every day may not have leprosy, but they may have some type of pain. They may be going through a difficult time and need someone to have compassion on them. A place to receive love. A place where someone will listen. A place where they don't receive scriptural formulas, but a heart poured out for them. Can you be that person? Can you provide a place? Will you be that place?
We are all broken in some way. We all need encouragement from others. Let us all strive to be a sacred, healing presence for others. We will never have all the answers about suicide, but we can certainly start by making time for others — not to lecture them, but to provide a sacred place for pain.
Carmille Akande is a licensed attorney and minister who spends her time visiting prisons, homeless shelters, hospitals, and nursing homes sharing the love of Jesus. Carmille blogs at carmilleakande.com and you can follow her on Twitter @CarmilleAkande.
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