THREE ARE BETTER THAN ONE
How God Comforts Abundantly in Loss through the Grief of Others
No worries. I’m not misquoting the sacred text in Ecc. 4:9-12.
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Two are better than one. No doubt about it–for all the reasons Solomon lists for any number of difficult circumstances. Today I’m grateful to find my two is a three.
My journal entry this morning began this way:
Not my favorite day of the year. I write this at the kitchen table. I’m looking at the very place on the tile floor where I collapsed in a flood of tears three years ago. Nancy had just uttered those horrible words, “Josh is dead.” You really never do get entirely over burying a child.
Then the phone rang. I knew he would call. He hasn’t missed a January 18 yet. He won’t ever, if he can help it. “E” is too well acquainted with grief himself to drop this ball.
That’s especially true because for years the circumstances were reversed. I used to call him every January 19. He and his bride lost their daughter years ago. I was their pastor at the time. I presided over the funeral.
It means the world to me when this brother calls. It has everything to do with another significant passage of Scripture–2 Cor. 1:3-5.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 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. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
No one comforts in loss more abundantly than someone with a shared grief. In a nutshell, here’s what my friend did as Jesus’ agent on yet another day of mourning/remembering in my life.
One, he connected. He took initiative. This is a busy man with enormous responsibilities in a major parachurch ministry. He found time to care for me.
Two, he listened. After asking me how I was doing, he listened quietly with the occasional affirming “yes” or “hmm” that assured me of his undivided attention. Just being able to express the gamut of my feelings without fear of judgment helped so much.
Three, he identified. He shared his own experience of visiting his daughter’s graveside the day before. He talked about how hard last Christmas was getting all those cards with pictures of children and grandchildren he will never have. He understands.
Four, he counseled. Not in an overt way. He used the back door approach–perhaps not even realizing what he was doing. He reminded me of some advice I had given him about sharing the hurt honestly yet humbly with the Lord.
Five, he suggested. “Curt, what do you think of this? What about you, me, and “R” getting together at some point?”
Here’s why my title has the number three in it. We both have a mutual friend who lost his daughter some years ago on January 26. I officiated that service too.
“Great idea!” I said.
Three men of sorrow acquainted with grief getting together to comfort one another with the comfort gained from the Father of mercies and God of all comfort?
I can hardly wait.
And I’m glad January 18 rolls around only one time a year.