Every now and then during my time in the Air Force, I would come home to find Jana upset. Sometimes it was because the boys had been fighting, sometimes it was because of bad news from back home. As often as not, there was something I had done or failed to do. Once in a while, Jana was upset because of the way someone on base had treated her. Then I was ready to swing into action. I was a colonel, and I could fix this.
But Jana rarely wanted anything fixed.
She just wanted me to listen.
Hopefully, I’ve gotten better at that, though I’m still not as good as I could be. But I have learned to cringe when I hear well-meaning people offer advice to hurting people on how to fix their problems.
At the heart of his great letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul gives a list of practical advice on living out the Gospel in the world. In Romans 12:15, Paul says “Weep with those who weep.” The Greek word can also be translated “mourn,” but the usual sense of the word is to bawl, to wail, to cry loudly. Sometimes, rather than trying to fix a situation, or appeal to facts (“See, it’s not so bad”) it’s best to just enter into the hurt of others.
In his book Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation, Pastor Mark Vroegop says that lament gives people the language to talk to God and one another about the pain and sorrow that hinder racial reconciliation. “When Christians from majority and minority cultures learn to grieve together, they reaffirm their common bond as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Paul never said, “Fix those who need fixing.” Just “Weep with those who weep.”