Tag Archives: Friendshp

Yes, I Do Want Your Pity

Pity is underrated.

This is especially true when you have a friend going through a difficulty and you know all the answers to the questions they aren’t asking.

I just finished reading through the book of Job, which has become one of my favorite Old Testament books. (I’ve written a couple of previous posts about Job’s confusion and endurance.) While reading, I noticed again Job’s plea for pity from his friends.

You remember the story. Job lost everything—including his wealth and livelihood, his children, and his health. His friends came to comfort him, but rather than speaking words of consolation, they spoke words of condemnation, suggesting from a variety of angles that surely he was at fault for all that had befallen him and that if he would just confess the hidden sin they assumed he harbored, all would again be well.

But Job didn’t see it that way. He knew that while he wasn’t perfect, he had no hidden sin. As the conversations between the four men continued, Job often turned his words from addressing their accusations to simply crying out in anguish for relief and understanding from God. And multiple times, he asked for relief from his friends’ condemning words.

On one of these occasions, Job pled with his friends for pity: “To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend” (6:14).

Pity. Job just wanted his friends’ pity.

Job isn’t the only one in the Bible who longed for pity. Psalm 69:20 tells us that David wanted it as well: “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”

What is remarkable about Psalm 69 is that it is a messianic psalm specifically pointing to Christ on the cross. Of this passage, Matthew Henry wrote, “David penned this psalm when he was in affliction, and…the predictions were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.”

Read the verse again, and let this reality sink in: Jesus wanted pity. In His darkest hour, He longed for human pity and comfort.

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.—Psalm 69:20

Sometimes we contrast pity and compassion, dismissing pity as a mere empty feeling. But what if true compassion requires pity?

What if there are times when, like Job’s friends, we don’t see the situation as clearly as we think we do? And what if we don’t have as applicable answers as we believe? What if, in some instances, pity is the best vehicle for giving comfort?

There are two perspectives from which this truth is needful to grasp—when you are the person who needs to give pity and when you are the person who needs pity.

When you can’t “fix it,” you can still give pity.

I think those of us who know that God’s Word holds all the answers for life sometimes forget that we aren’t personally responsible or able to fix everyone’s pain. Sometimes, as in Job’s case, God allows suffering to continue for reasons known only to Him. Sometimes, like Job’s friends, we are too quick to assume what we don’t know and too impatient to listen when visible change doesn’t immediately take place.

But when we can’t “fix it” for our friends, we can still care. We can empathize. We can be okay with not being the hero and just be the encourager, affirming God’s compassion and care as we walk alongside one who is suffering.

Much of the book of Job is a record of the dialogue between him and his three friends. For chapter after chapter, the pattern is predictable. He speaks; they accuse.

But have you ever considered how Job’s suffering would have been made more bearable had his friends encouraged him? What if they had said, “We don’t understand either, but we trust God with you”?

When you need pity, God gives it.

I first noticed the messianic prophecy, “I looked for some to take pity,” during my Bible reading one morning years ago. It came on the heels of a difficult realization that a friend who had tried to fix something in my life which she didn’t understand had given up on caring as well. As I read these words describing Jesus’ experience, I understood in a more profound way than ever before, that He cares.

Jesus understands the need for sympathy. To once again quote Matthew Henry on Psalm 69, “We cannot expect too little from men (miserable comforters are they all); nor can we expect too much from God, for he is the Father of mercy and the God of all comfort and consolation.” (Incidentally, Henry’s parenthetical thought there is a reference to our friend Job: “I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all,” 16:2.)

Even in Job’s case, as poor, miserable Job believed he was cut off from God and was pleading with his friends to just show pity, God Himself was looking on Job with great pity and tender mercy: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).

Pity is a gift.

Whether you are a frustrated friend who can’t seem to get her message of help across to one who is suffering or you are the anguished sufferer, remember that pity is a gift. There are times we need to give it, and there are times we need to receive it.

There are unexplainable griefs in this life. Sometimes God allows His own to shoulder burdens that don’t go away in a single conversation…or decade. Sometimes we do well to listen and care and walk with our friends to the throne of grace again and again—not in a short-lived quest for the perfect solution, but in assurance (and giving reassurance) of “mercy, and…grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

And then, when we pour out our heart and pain before someone from we hope to receive the gift of pity, and they don’t know how to—or just don’t—give it, we do well to remember that God empathizes with us.

The God who pitied Job is the same who Himself felt the loneliness of suffering without comfort. He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), and He invites you to cast all your cares on Him, “for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

When God Moves in Mysterious Ways through Mental Illness


One of the most shocking biographies I remember reading was that of William Cowper.

Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung his hymns (including “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) or used the phrase he coined, “God moves in a mysterious way.”

It’s been years since I read his biography, but in recent research, I came across his name and reflected for a few minutes on some of the most extraordinary and meaningful aspects of his life.

Cowper’s salvation testimony is remarkable because he was saved as a direct result of admittance to a mental asylum after failed suicide attempts. The doctor who treated Cowper was a born again Christian who shared the gospel with him. The night and day difference in Cowper’s life after his salvation is undeniable.

Most of us would be very comfortable with Cowper’s testimony if it ended there. But it didn’t. Although he didn’t struggle mentally to the same degree after his salvation as he had before, he did battle mental illness (including severe depression and two more mental breakdowns) for the rest of his life.  Continue reading

The Four Best Words I Heard Today

Without a doubt, they were these:

“I’m praying for you.”

And to think, the friend who said them actually apologized! She said, “I wish I could say something really wonderful, but…”

Suffice it to say, she did say something really wonderful. Because I know she meant it.

Who have you sincerely prayed for today?

What To Do When You Can’t Fix Your Friend or Her Life

Don’t you hate it when your friend comes to you with a prayer request you can’t answer?

I know, the very fact that it’s a prayer request means that it’s supposed to be a need that only God can answer. But I confess, I like to answer them too. (Sometimes I even try to claim solutions that weren’t my idea. Like when the friend says, “I wonder if I tried…” and I say, “You know what, you should try…!”)

I like to suggest the answer that works.

Especially, I like to be the answer. (It’s far more heroic to be the answer than merely to suggest the answer.)

Sometimes, if I can’t suggest the answer or be the answer, and especially if I can’t even see the answer, I tend to lose interest in the need.

I guess I just like to fix it. Continue reading

The Saint Syndrome

From a doctrinal standpoint, we become saints at the moment of salvation. But one of my younger sisters, Natalea, observed that from a relational standpoint, the distinction isn’t quite so clear. In fact, her observation was that as each member of our family left home, we entered “sainthood” in the eyes of the remaining family.

Where those at home had once been frustrated over toothpaste left in the sink or excessive talking, or whatever the weaker points of one member’s character had been, they now received a phone call or email from the departed loved one as if it were a treasured honor bestowed upon them.

Natalea’s observation rang so true (in a sort of ridiculous sense) that my family has adopted the prefix of “saint” for a family member visiting at home. Once they even posted a sign, “Welcome, Saint Daniel.”

But even before “sainthood” entered our family, another author observed this phenomenon:

To live above with saints we love, oh, that will be glory;
But to live below with saints we know, now that’s another story!

Isn’t it true? Even the most gracious and godly people are still just people. And as such, they tend to look better from a distance.

Read the biographies of great Christians, and you will find flaws. In a biography the flaws are often contained in one paragraph or page, but in real life? Imperfections of character are more grating when they are daily encountered face to face than when breezed over on the written page.

And yet, in retrospect, we deeply appreciate the Christian giants whose co-laborers may have at times felt frustrated. We willingly forget their habits of the flesh and appreciate their heart for God and their example of surrendered service to the Lord.

We don’t mind briefly mentioning, “Oh, yes, so-and-so could sometimes have a temper” or “Sometimes she could be demanding and difficult to work with.” And then we move on to note the incredible works of faith in that person’s life. But when we are personally impacted by those same flaws in a fellow-laborer? That’s another story. No longer is it “she can sometimes be demanding,” now it is “she just always thinks she knows the best way to do things and never listens to others’ input and…”

Perhaps we should take the same approach for those with whom we rub shoulders every day. Perhaps we should induct them into our annals of “sainthood” while we have the opportunity to closely appreciate their Christlike qualities (mixed as those qualities may be with the flesh with which we all struggle).

Perhaps we don’t have to wait until somebody leaves until we call them a saint.

Perhaps we can acknowledge the reality that our fellow Christians are saints. Perhaps it would help.

And on a more personal note, I’m thankful my saint-sister is coming to live with me. Welcome, saint Natalea!!

What “Use Me” Really Means

Carol Tudor was my Sunday school teacher when I was in second grade. She was a fun, energetic teacher when I was seven, and through the next several years, she continued to be an encouraging person in my life.

Last week, I had the joy of getting to see and reconnect with her for the first time in about fifteen years. We chatted like old friends, sharing the high and low points of the past decade and a half with each other. We exchanged cell numbers and promised to keep in touch. Without a doubt, that half hour was a treasured gift from the Lord.

Mrs. Tudor is a health care professional, and somewhere along the line, our conversation turned to health-related issues. She shared some research with me and offered to give me an over-the-counter supplement at church that evening. Continue reading

A Pesky Question that Works

“So, how will you use that today?” That’s it—the pesky question. And a dear, godly lady asked it to me twice this week.

All I was doing was telling her about some advice I had been given and something I was learning. It was sort of a big, vague, wonderful, and sure-to-be-helpful-in-the-future truth.

And then she asked, “So, how will you use that today?”

And I squirmed.

I hadn’t really thought that far. Actually, I was planning to use it in the future—hadn’t thought so much about today. It seemed like the sort of truth that would more clearly define itself along the way. Continue reading

The Price of an Education

Perhaps it was the crisp fall air from this morning, or perhaps it was the bag of apples calling from the fridge, or perhaps it was the fact that this was the first evening in over a week that I’ve had a few minutes without a specific obligation. But whatever the reason, I decided to make an apple pie tonight.

My mom makes the best apple pie ever. Of course, pie baking expertise is not absorbed by osmosis—as I am well aware. It’s the crust that always gets me. My mom bakes a perfect crust—thin and flaky. I can’t remember that I’ve ever baked a good crust in the kitchen alone. But, since it’s been years since I last tried and failed and since I couldn’t reach my mom on the phone, I decided tonight was the night for success!

I pulled out my mom’s recipe and began measuring and mixing. Yep, the flour and salt mixed together great!

As I began to cut in the butter, I called Kristy, a dear friend from out of state whom I haven’t talked with in months. We chatted as I watched what was taking place in the bowl in front of me with growing concern. This wasn’t looking quite right. In fact, it was looking very wrong. Continue reading

Why I Doubled My File Space

Tonight I tackled the project I’ve been putting off for weeks: “file all papers in box.”

It’s not that I don’t know how to file. I’ve known how to do it since my mother taught me  alphabetical sorting when I was six.

It’s not that I haven’t had time to file. I’ve made time for other things.

It’s just that my file box was already full, and I knew I had to sort through it and toss papers. I didn’t want to make that many decisions, so I put it off.

But tonight, with a determined mind and focused purpose, I pulled out my file box and set the tottering “to file” pile next to it. Be ruthless, I told myself. There’s no use keeping junk. Continue reading