God’s Consolations and Mercies — Kindness

Be kind to one another.   (Eph. 4:32)

Paul’s admonition to be kind has been very real to me as I have been coping with my daughter’s death this summer.  Kindness may be the most important thing we need and the most important thing we can give.  Kindness costs so little; it gives so much.

I am thinking about the woman at the newspaper who was instructing me on how to submit an obituary.  After her third attempt to walk me through the four steps, I said, “I’m sorry.  I’m just not getting it.” She said, “There is nothing to be sorry about.  I understand. Is there someone in the house who I can talk to?”

I am thinking about the therapist who said, “Jim, there is no pain like losing a child, and there is no parent who has lost a child who doesn’t blame themselves.  Lucy and others will need to tell you 5,000 times that Anna’s death was not your fault.  I know you loved her.  I know you did and would have done anything for her.”

I am thinking about the several people who had lost children themselves, who reached beyond their own pain to touch mine.

I am thinking about Lucy, who blessed me with kindness in more ways than I can count and in more ways than I even know.

I am also thinking about the several people who were trying to be kind but whose words weren’t particularly helpful.  Such as: “Anna must have completed what she came to do.”  Wrong: She had just begun to live into her mission.

Or this one: “Her death must have been part of God’s plan.” Wrong: How could taking a child in the prime of life be any part of God’s loving desires for us?

Or this one: “God needed a new angel in heaven.”  Wrong: God doesn’t need any more angels, for He already has enough.

Or, finally, this most unhelpful sentiment: “God only takes the best.” Wrong: What kind of God would take the good ones and leave the bad ones for us?

I received so much kindness through all the notes, texts, calls, and emails that people sent. Everyone’s contact mattered.

If ever you know anyone who loses a loved one, reach out.  Even if you don’t quite know what to say—write.  Even if you think your words will be inadequate—write.  Even if you have had a break in the relationship—write.  Get over whatever might be giving you any reluctance or hesitancy and do the right and kind thing. The person you reach out to will be blessed by receiving your words, and you will be blessed by giving them.

Although I knew I needed and wanted to receive the kindness of others, I have had a very difficult time being kind to myself.  I kept on thinking there must have been something I could have done to protect Anna.  I kept on feeling that I had let her down, that I had fallen short as her father, that I had failed to keep her alive.

I had a breakthrough this week in being kind to myself while trying to be kind to someone else.  As this woman was sharing the challenges, even hurts, that she has experienced in her life, I just happened to look at the shelf beside my desk, where I saw an oil stock.  An oil stock contains oil that has been blessed by a bishop to anoint the sick or the dying.  I have used that oil to anoint those in every kind of distress and those who are leaving this life for the next one.

I showed her the oil stock and explained what it is used for, and then I asked her to lean forward by Zoom so that I could anoint her.  It was a touching moment for her, I think, and then I knew that I needed to anoint myself.  For forty years, I have been extending God’s kindness through that holy oil to others, and it became clear that I was long overdue to do the same for myself.  It may sound a little magical that this anointing of myself would have had any impact, but the mystery of God’s grace broke through, and I was able to extend, finally, some kindness to my needy and broken heart.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Who has been kind to you?  Have you ever thanked them? Who has been unkind? Can you forgive them?
  1. What would it cost you if you more often looked at, spoke to, and thought about people with more kindness? What would they and you gain if you did?
  1. If you were to anoint yourself with holy oil, where do you most need God’s kindness to touch your heart, soul, mind, and life?

3 thoughts on “God’s Consolations and Mercies — Kindness

  1. Gregg DeJarnett

    As always, your message is timely and sorely needed. My business partner lost his father last weekend. I verbally offered my condolences here at work yesterday, but it did not dawn on me until I read Kindness a few minutes ago that I should reach out to him with a written note. Strange, because I am a habitual thank you note writer. The note is written and it will go in the mail this evening. Thank you Jim.

  2. John Madison

    Jim, I just wanted to let you know how much I have been blessed by your posts, especially the last few regarding losing your daughter. As you know, I lost my son Tyler to suicide when he was seventeen. As you have stated, losing a child is a pain like no other. Still, the kindnesses shown by friends and co-workers were a blessing. And as you pointed out, there were people who meant to be kind, but were not helpful at all. As strange as it may sound to some, one of those was, “Your faith is able to get you through this”. No, I didn’t feel I was getting through it at all. I finally responded to someone who spoke of my “faith” with, “It’s not my faith getting me through this; its my crying in the shower and screaming in the car on the way to work”. The person seemed puzzled…but that’s ok. But, the kindness of those who didn’t have much to say, but made their presence and comfort known was a blessing. And as the years have passed I’ve had the opportunity to be with individuals who went through the same thing. Most of the time all I said was, “I’ve gone through it too”, and that let them open up. Forgive me for being so wordy; but thank you for sharing and allowing others like myself to respond.

  3. I was just out talking to my neighbor’s mother. My neighbor has cancer and it does not look good. After Chemo and then surgery and now Chemo again for six months, it is hard on everyone. Her mom lives about an hour away and drives over every day to take the dogs for a walk. I see her every so often and we talk. She hurts so much watching her daughter suffer through so much pain without the assuredness of a cure. Today she told me how people say to her that God does not give us more than we can handle. It is one of those comments that at the time is not all that helpful. Yet it is in Scripture – well kind of.

    Having read your post, it got me to thinking. When God says that, it can be very comforting to know that he will see us through, but when someone else uses it, it kind of falls flat. As my neighbor’s Mom said. “Give it up God.” meaning she doesn’t need anymore testing. I said to her that I understood, and that most people said it from a place of hindsight. Few people in the midst of seeing their child suffer so says, “no problem God, I got this one.”

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