Following is the piece I wrote as an essay for the special edition of my new record, Love Will Have The Final Word.
The suffering of others can make us talkative, loosening the tongues of even the most timid among us. We mean well, we want to help, but more often than not we end up being like Job’s comforters: doing more harm than good by offering half-baked answers, which are no comfort at all and leave the hearer feeling even more alone. When we do this we are asking the suffering person to be okay, to cheer up, and in doing so we are rejecting their pain.
The loneliness of our own suffering can make us introspective. It can lead us into the shame and regret buried deep in our hearts, warranted or not (a friend of mine who had a miscarriage told me that all she wanted to say over and over again was, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” though she had done nothing for which she needed to apologize). In this we see how pain has the power to unearth our deepest wounds, driving them to the surface where perhaps God can begin to heal them.
Several years ago, I experienced one of the most healing moments of my life. It happened in the back lounge of a tour bus. I had just poured out my broken heart to my friend, Andy Gullahorn, when I recognized in the silence that fell between us that I was bracing myself for what he would say next. Would he try to fix me? Correct me? Would he reject my pain by offering answers?
After a moment Andy said, “Jason, I want you to stand up with me. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to hug you, and you need to let me hold you for at least two minutes. And I’m going to time it,” he said as he took off his watch, “so you’re not going anywhere.”
I’m not afraid of male bonding, but two minutes is a long time to hug anyone, let alone in the back lounge of a tour bus. I laughed nervously at first because I felt awkward. But then I found myself crying, and not long after that I started ugly crying. And then, as the last bit of strength I had been clinging to gave itself up, I felt like I sort of went limp and mostly just hung there, held up in the arms of my friend. He didn’t ask me to be okay. He didn’t offer answers. He just offered himself.
Pain is holy, and in the presence of holiness it’s often best to keep quiet. No words passed between us, but what Andy was saying, and what God was saying through him, was clear: “You are loved. You are not alone.”